Energy Secretary Rick Perry recently talked pig manure as a power source with the Ukrainian prime minister.
Except it wasn't the Ukranian prime minister, it was a Russian prankster pretending to be Volodymyr Groysman, who spoke through a translator — who also was a prankster. The callers were actually Vladimir “Vovan” Kuznetsov and Alexei “Lexus” Stolyarov, who once again duped a high-level U.S. official for the entertainment of their Russian listeners.
“Secretary Perry is the latest target of two Russian pranksters,” Department of Energy spokesman Shaylyn Hynes said in an email to The Washington Post. “These individuals are known for pranking high level officials and celebrities, particularly those who are supportive of an agenda that is not in line with their governments. In this case, the energy security of Ukraine.”
Perhaps the only giveaway about the true nature of the call was a statement the “Ukrainian prime minister” made about a new biofuel invented by Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, according to the Pravda Report newspaper.
The fuel was made from a mix of home-brewed alcohol and pig manure. Perry said he’d like to get more information about the “scientific development.”
But throughout the 22-minute call, Perry was convinced he was talking to Groysman. He and the "Ukrainian prime minister" talked about a potential pipeline across the Baltic sea for Russian gas, the U.S. withdrawal from the Climate Paris Accord and exploration for natural in Ukraine, which relies on Russia for much of its energy.
“I hope that stepping away from the Paris accord will not have any negative impact with our relationship with the Ukraine,” Perry said. “We tried to divorce the politics from this and really just let our record stand, one that I’m very proud of.”
It is, of course, a bit disconcerting that the U.S. Energy Secretary can be fooled by a fake phone call, but the pranksters timing was reportedly well planned. On June 20, Perry hosted Groysman in Washington, D.C., at the Department of Energy, and a few weeks later the "Ukranians" called to request a follow-up phone chat.
The pranksters say they have a victims’ list that includes several high-profile names: singer Elton John, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Croatian prime minister, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). The rumor debunking website Snopes has said some of those prank claims are unproven, and points out that if the pranksters can impersonate one person on the phone, they can easily impersonate two.
The pranksters called singer Elton John in 2015 claiming to be Russian President Vladimir Putin. The call happened shortly after the singer had criticized the president’s stance on LGBT rights.