Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s chief rival accused Russia on Thursday of spreading “deep fakes” ahead of this weekend’s crucial general election, Agence France-Presse reported.
Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu’s allegations came hours after a third-party candidate dropped out of the race after being targeted by a online smear campaign.
“Dear Russian friends,” Kılıçdaroğlu said on Twitter.
Sevgili Rus Dostlarımız,
Dün bu ülkede ortaya saçılan montajlar, kumpaslar, Deep Fake içerikler, kasetlerin arkasında siz varsınız. Eğer 15 Mayıs sonrası dostluğumuzun devamını istiyorsanız, elinizi Türk’ün devletinden çekin. Biz hala işbirlikten ve dostluktan yanayız.
— Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu (@kilicdarogluk) May 11, 2023
“You are behind the montages, conspiracies, deep fakes and tapes that were exposed in this country yesterday,” he said without providing details.
“If you want our friendship after May 15, get your hands off the Turkish state. We are still in favour of cooperation and friendship.”
Polls show the secular opposition leader edging ahead of Erdogan in Sunday’s presidential ballot.
The election will go to a May 28 runoff if no candidate picks up more than 50 percent of the vote.
Kılıçdaroğlu’s comments came in the heat of an increasingly dirty campaign that saw third-party candidate Muharrem İnce pull out on Thursday.
İnce announced his decision after being targeted by an online campaign that included doctored images of him meeting women and riding around in fancy cars.
Polls show most of İnce’s support — measured at between two and four percent — likely going to Kılıçdaroğlu.