What started as a conversation about foreign coal exploration, natural-gas pipelines and pig manure as a power source between two very important people, ended up being a prank call by two infamous Russian pranksters.
On one end of the phone, you have Energy Secretary Rick Perry, on the other, Vladimir “Vovan” Kuznetsov and Alexei “Lexus” Stolyarov who can cross off prank-calling the Energy Secretary on their lost of high-profile hoax list.
According to DOE Spokeswoman Shaylyn Hynes, she said,
“Secretary Perry is the latest target of two Russian pranksters. 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.”
During the conversation, which Perry thought was real, Perry was told he was speaking with the Ukrainian Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman who was speaking through a translator. Perry went on to talk about a potential pipeline across the Baltic sea for Russian gas, cyber attacks on the US power grid, natural-gas exploration in Ukraine and the US withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord. The entire fake conversation is on a Russian news sire called Vesti.
According to Perry, he said,
“I hope that stepping away from the Paris accord will not have any negative impact with our relationship with the Ukraine. We tried to divorce the politics from this and really just let our record stand, one that I’m very proud of… What we have seen in Texas is the great increase of productivity, particularly in shale gas because of hydraulic fracturing and the directional drilling”
He also talked about a meeting scheduled for August where they’d let American business executives talk about extracting oil natural gas in 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.
The fuel was made from a mix of home-brewed alcohol and pig manure. Yes, pig manure.
Perry said he’d like to get more information about the “scientific development,” and the pranksters seemed to get past Perry’s defenses with opportunistic timing.
On June 20, Perry hosted Groysman and his delegation at the Department of Energy, a meeting that was widely reported in the Ukrainian press.
Three weeks later, the department received a request for a phone follow-up with the Ukrainian prime minster, in advance of another meeting with the Ukrainians in August.
That phone call happened on July 19.
The two pranksters claim they have a “victims’ list” that includes several high-profile names such as 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-Ari.
The rumor debunking website Snopes has said some of those 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.
According to Krasnov, he said,
“We thought it wasn’t likely that Putin would want to meet with him and call, at least not so quickly. But it turned out that Elton John was really waiting for this call, and so he immediately believed it really was a conversation with the people who we said we were.”
Elton John was elated about the call with the Russian leader. He posted “an effusive Instagram post in which he thanks the Russian leader for having reached out to him.”
He shortly took the post down, but we can still enjoy his humiliation. Thank you Russian pranksters, keep the hoaxes coming.