A pair of Russian hoaxters who go by the pseudonyms Vovan and Lexus are renowned for impersonating famous public figures in order to induce other famous public figures to make fools of themselves. Their latest prank has made a fool of Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde, who thought she was taking a phone call from Julia Navalnaya, the wife of the Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny — who is currently languishing in prison — and his chief of staff, Leonid Volkov. The foreign minister had no idea that her words were being recorded, and that they would be released to the media.
Ms. Linde’s faux pas has given the Swedish tabloids plenty of fodder for sensational news stories. In the recording she indicates that she may be able send Swedish taxpayers’ money to help Mr. Navalny. She also brags about her work against Vladimir Putin, and her reluctance to support sanctions against the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, due to the involvement of Western European companies in the project.
First the video (audio only, with still photos of Leonid Volkov, Ann Linde, and Julia Navalnaya), in English with Russian subtitles:
Many thanks to LN for translating this article about the prank from Fria Tider:
Ann Linde is revealed by prank callers — promises Swedish tax money to Russian politicians
A couple of infamous Russian pranksters managed to get a call with Ann Linde. In the conversation, the Swedish Foreign Minister discusses how to use Swedish development aid money to finance Russian opposition politicians.
Behind the coup are the infamous pranksters who call themselves Vovan and Lexus, who have previously managed to deceive a number of high-ranking people in the Western world.
In May, Fria Tider reported on how the duo got the American National Endowment for Democracy, NED, to boast that they funded and organized the mass protests in Belarus last year.
In the new conversation with Ann Linde, Vovan and Lexus pretend to be Julia Navalnaya, wife of the imprisoned opposition politician Alexei Navalny, and Navalny’s chief of staff Leonid Volkov.
In the phone call, Anne Linde talks broadly about the Swedish government’s work against Putin.
At one point, she is asked directly whether she can help fund Alexei Navalny’s movement.
“It would be fantastic if Sweden could help us, for example through the development assistance authority (Sida),” the man says in the conversation.
Ann Linde replies that Sweden has already set aside €38 million to support “civil society and human rights” over the next five years.
“I’m not entirely sure of the details, but I think it is possible that… if you have a contact… with you or through the embassy. If possible, because I do not know the technical details.”
The man, who thus pretends to be Navalny’s chief of staff, then explains that the Swedish tax money must be smuggled to him.
“The problem is that we can not use it openly. The Russian parliament has passed laws on foreign financing, so we can go through our office in Ukraine or in one of the Baltic states,” he says.
The Swedish Foreign Minister answers:
“I think we should not discuss this over the phone, but I think it is possible that someone else can talk to you after our phone call.”
The Foreign Ministry’s press office informs Expressen that the conversation took place “after an official request.” Ann Linde has requested contact with Julia Navalnaya.
“For the Minister of Foreign Affairs, it is important to be open to contact and dialogue with civil society representatives from different countries. It is unfortunate that that openness is used in this way,” the Foreign Ministry wrote to Expressen.