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Wednesday, Feb 28, 2024

US Federal Reserve Chief Tricked By Russian Pranksters Posing As Zelensky

US Federal Reserve Chief Tricked By Russian Pranksters Posing As Zelensky

Apparently thinking he was speaking to Zelenskiy, the video shows Powell answering questions on topics ranging from the outlook for inflation to the Russian central bank.
Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell held a call with a pair of Russian pranksters posing as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, according to video shown on Russian state television.

Apparently thinking he was speaking to Zelenskiy, the video shows Powell answering questions on topics ranging from the outlook for inflation to the Russian central bank. There were several clips lasting about 15 minutes and it's unclear if the footage was altered.

"Chair Powell participated in a conversation in January with someone who misrepresented himself as the Ukrainian president," a Fed spokesperson said Thursday. "It was a friendly conversation and took place in a context of our standing in support of the Ukrainian people in this challenging time. No sensitive or confidential information was discussed."

The spokesperson added that "the matter has been referred to appropriate law enforcement, and out of respect for their efforts, we won't be commenting further."

The Fed also said that the video appears to have been edited and cannot confirm it is accurate.

Other Officials

While the comments appeared anodyne, the fact that the hoax call got through to Powell is likely to raise questions about security at the Fed.

The pranksters - Vladimir Kuznetsov and Alexei Stolyarov, who go by the nicknames Vovan and Lexus - have for years succeeded in trickingforeign politicians into talking to them despite their sometimes-crude impersonations.

The duo are supporters of President Vladimir Putin. Back in 2018, the UK said it believed the Kremlin was behind a hoax call to then Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson. The pranksters often post the videos with the intention to embarrass Western policymakers.

Earlier this year, the two shared a conversation with European Central Bank chief Christine Lagarde, also impersonating Zelenskiy, according to a video they posted.

"The President agreed to this conversation in good faith, also to demonstrate her support for Ukraine and its people defending themselves from Russia's war of aggression," an ECB spokesperson said Thursday.

The pair also spoke to Angela Merkel, Germany's former chancellor, pretending to be former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko. Merkel appeared suspicious in the video of the call but didn't question the callers about it.

Last year, the pair tricked Polish President Andrzej Duda into thinking he was speaking to his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron.

The Powell call received wide coverage in Russian state media, which usually revels in the embarrassing episodes orchestrated by the pair. On their channel in the Russian VK social network, they devoted an entire show to it, including commentary from Viktor Bout, the arms dealer convicted in the US who returned to Russia late last year in a prisoner swap.
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