Britain’s defense secretary has ordered an investigation into a video call he received on Thursday from an impostor posing as Denys Shmyhal, Ukraine’s prime minister. In a series of tweet, the Right Honorable Ben Wallace revealed that the man asked “several misleading questions” and finally ended the call after becoming suspicious. The official described the hoax as a “desperate attempt” and blamed Russia.
“No amount of misinformation, distortion and dirty Russian tricks can distract from human rights abuses and Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine. A desperate attempt, wrote the conservative politician in the tweet. Wallace did not reveal any evidence to support his claim that Russia was responsible for the bogus call, or name those involved.
Sky News’ Deborah Haynes Noted that the perpetrators went to “great lengths” to organize the video call, including placing a Ukrainian flag behind the so-called “Ukrainian Prime Minister” and using fake Ukrainian Embassy details. At one point, the culprit asked Wallace if he had received “the stuff” they sent. A few more minutes of equally nonsensical questioning finally set off enough alarm bells for Wallace to cut off the call.
A pair of Russian comedians known as Lexus and Vovan are infamous for regularly pranking world leaders. Like irish time Remarks, the couple once called former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, posing as the President of Kyrgyzstan. The same couple also claimed – in an appeal to the real Poroshenko – to be Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. They also tricked British Prime Minister Boris Johnson into taking a 18 minute video call with an actor posing as the Prime Minister of Armenia. During the call, Johnson spoke about the UK’s plans for Russian President Vladimir Putin and the poisoning of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal. While the Kremlin denies employing the pair, Russian state media often praise their actions.
While a security issue at this level is undoubtedly embarrassing for the UK Ministry of Defence, disclosing that such a call has taken place is also important for national security. As Haynes notes, raising awareness of the call could thwart any attempt to doctor the footage and release it to mislead the public.
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