- Boris Johnson pranked by Russian duo, one of whom posed as the Armenian prime minister.
- The foreign secretary spoke for 18 minutes about Putin, Russian poisonings and international affairs.
- He eventually terminated the call after the man posing as the Armenian PM suggests Putin is funding the Labour party.
- A spokesperson for Johnson dismisses the incident as a “childish” hoax.”
LONDON – The UK foreign secretary Boris Johnson has fallen victim to a prank call by a Russian duo with suspected links to the Russian security services.
Alexei Stolyarov and Vladimir Kuznetsov released a recording of an 18-minute phone conversation with Johnson in which Stolyarov posed as the Armenian prime minister, Nikol Pashinyan, and asked the foreign secretary for advice on dealing with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Johnson was recorded laughing after Stolyarov made a jokey reference to the poisoning earlier this year of Sergei Skripal. The hoax caller joked that he hoped he wouldn’t be poisoned with Novichok in an upcoming meeting with Putin. Novichok was the substance which hospitalised Skripal and his daughter Yulia in March.
The conversation, an excerpt of which was sent to The Guardian, was eventually terminated by Johnson or his advisers after the man posing as Pashinyan suggested that Putin had been secretly funding the Labour party.
Listen to Johnson tricked by a fake Armenian premier
Stolyarov and Kuznetsov, known as Lexus and Vovan, have previously tricked a series of other world leaders including the Ukrainian president, Petro Poroshenko, the Turkish leader, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, as well as Elton John.
In a statement, the UK foreign office condemned the “childish” hoax.
“The Foreign Secretary realised it was a hoax, and ended the call,” the foreign office said in a statement.
“We checked it out and knew immediately it was a prank call. The use of chemical weapons in Salisbury and Syria and recent events in Armenia are serious matters. These childish actions show the lack of seriousness of the caller and those behind him.”
Johnson began the near-20 minute phone call by congratulating one of the pranksters for their “remarkable success,” believing he was speaking to Pashinyan, the newly-elected leader of Armenia.
He added: “You can definitely count on the UK and I admire your vision and what you’re trying to achieve.”
A Labour spokesperson told Business Insider that the party did not want to comment.
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.