Russian pranksters call Merkel posing as Ukraine's ex-leader

FILE -- In this Oct. 24, 2017 file photo German Chancellor Angela Merkel phones during a break of a meeting of the German parliament in Berlin, Germany. Russian pranksters posed as Ukraines ex-President Petro Poroshenko to reach Angela Merkel by phone and discuss Ukraine and Belarus with the former German chancellor, who appeared wary during the call. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber, file) (Markus Schreiber, Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

BERLIN – Russian pranksters posing as Ukraine’s ex-President Petro Poroshenko managed to contact Angela Merkel by phone to discuss developments in Ukraine and Belarus, although the former German chancellor appeared wary during the call.

Merkel's office said Monday that the former German leader received a call Jan. 12 from someone claiming to be Poroshenko. The conversation was assisted by a German-Ukrainian interpreter from the German Foreign Ministry's language service.

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In an emailed statement, the office said Merkel informed the ministry afterward about the “impression that she gained of the caller during the call,” but didn't elaborate on what that was.

Vladimir Kuznetsov and Alexei Stolyarov, known as Vovan and Lexus, posted on their Telegram channel what they said were excerpts from the call. The pair have previously embarrassed European politicians including French President Emmanuel Macron, Polish President Andrzej Duda and then-British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, as well as Elton John and Prince Harry, with similar hoax calls.

The recording features Merkel saying — as she has done publicly before — that the much-criticized Minsk peace agreement had bought precious time for Ukraine. Merkel and former French President Francois Hollande had brokered the peace agreement with Poroshenko and Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2015. She also criticizes repression in autocratic Belarus.

Poroshenko was Ukraine's president from 2014 until 2019. Merkel led Germany from 2005 until the end of 2021.

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