Italy’s Prime Minister Duped By Russian Pranksters—Their Latest Target Amid Ukraine War

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Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni was duped by Russian pranksters Vovan and Lexus into sharing her thoughts connected nan warfare successful Ukraine and her vexation astir Italy’s work for migrants entering Europe done nan country, making her nan latest high-profile target for nan pro-Kremlin duo alongside nan likes of Elton John and Bernie Sanders.

ROME, ITALY - OCTOBER 22: Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni attends nan swearing-in ceremonial astatine ... [+] nan Quirinal palace connected October 22, 2022 successful Rome, Italy. Far-right leader Giorgia Meloni is group to go Italy's first female Prime Minister. Italians voted successful nan 2022 Italian wide predetermination connected 25 September which was called aft nan dissolution of parliament was announced by Italian President Sergio Mattarella connected 21 July. (Photo by Antonio Masiello/Getty Images)

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Key Facts

Meloni’s agency said nan pranksters impersonated nan caput of nan African Union Commission, and nan telephone happened connected September 18 earlier nan United Nations General Assembly, Reuters reported.

The premier curate reportedly said she saw “a batch of fatigue” “from each sides” astir nan warfare successful Ukraine, and that “the problem is to find a measurement out” of nan warfare that is “acceptable for some without destroying nan world law.”

Meloni claimed Italy has been abandoned by world peers to woody pinch a surge of migrants into Europe, galore of whom participate nan continent done Italy, calling it “a very stupid measurement of thinking,” according to Reuters.

Last September, Vovan and Lexus reportedly impersonated Michael McFaul, a erstwhile U.S. ambassador to Moscow, who warned connected X, formerly Twitter, that nan caller’s questions “are evidently designed to undermine Ukraine’s negotiated and warfare efforts.”

The duo person made respective calls to high-profile figures since Russia’s penetration of Ukraine past twelvemonth by falsely claiming to beryllium Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, speaking pinch Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell, and Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling, among others.

Key Background

Stolyarov and Vladimir Kuznetsov, who is Vovan, started working together successful 2014, according to nan Moscow Times. In 2015, they claimed to have impersonated Russian President Vladimir Putin successful a prank telephone to Elton John to talk astir cheery rights, nan Guardian reported. In 2020, Kuznetsov and Stolyarov claimed to person pranked Bernie Sanders while he was moving for nan Democratic statesmanlike nomination, AP reported. The duo reportedly impersonated biology activistic Greta Thunberg and her father, Svante, and told Sanders they would support his campaign. They besides impersonated Thunberg to prank Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau successful 2020. In 2021, elder European parliamentarians from Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania and nan U.K. said they were targeted by deepfakes of Russian guidance members successful video calls, the Guardian reported. However, Stolyarov and Kuznetsov, who said they were down nan calls, told The Verge they utilized constitution and played pinch camera angles to dress to beryllium Leonid Volkov, Russian guidance leader Alexei Nalvany’s main of staff.


When Meloni took agency successful October 2022, she became Italy’s first female premier minister, and nan country’s first far-right leader since nan Second World War.

Further Reading

Deepfakes Are Here, Can They Be Stopped? (Forbes)

In A New Era Of Deepfakes, AI Makes Real News Anchors Report Fake Stories (Forbes)

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