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UK slams Russian pranksters over Boris Johnson call

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson attends at a press conference in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Tuesday, May 22, 2018. (Natacha Pisarenko / Associated Press)
British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson attends at a press conference in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Tuesday, May 22, 2018. (Natacha Pisarenko / Associated Press)
Associated Press

LONDON – Britain’s Foreign Office on Thursday criticized “childish” Russian pranksters who phoned Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson posing as the leader of Armenia.

The Guardian newspaper said that Johnson was called by Alexei Stolyarov and Vladimir Kuznetsov, known as Lexus and Vovan.

One pretended to be new Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian, and the newspaper said that Johnson spoke to them for 18 minutes, discussing topics including the poisoning of ex-spy Sergei Skripal.

A recording of the call, said to have taken place last week, was posted on YouTube.

In the recording, Johnson says Britain is “almost 100 percent sure” President Vladimir Putin’s Kremlin ordered the attack on Skripal and his daughter Yulia. Moscow denies involvement in the incident, which has sparked a crisis in U.K.-Russia relations.

Johnson is also heard lamenting the poor state of U.K. relations with Russia, saying Moscow seems “unable to resist malign activity of one kind or another.”

The Foreign Office said Johnson “realized it was a hoax, and ended the call. 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,” it said in a statement. “These childish actions show the lack of seriousness of the caller and those behind him.”

Prime Minister Theresa May’s office said “obviously this shouldn’t have happened,” and announced there would be a government investigation into how the hoaxers got through to Johnson.

Britain suspects the comedy duo have backing from the Kremlin.

Stolyarov and Kuznetsov, who have fooled high-profile victims around the world, have denied links to Russia’s security services. In 2015, they phoned Elton John pretending to be Russian President Vladimir Putin after the musician criticized Russia’s stance on gay rights.

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