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‘Prank’ video with Defence Secretary emerges after UK blames Kremlin for hoaxes

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M

inisters are braced for more videos to emerge after a “prank” call with Defence Secretary Ben Wallace surfaced in the wake of Britain blaming Vladimir Putin’s Russia for attempted hoaxes.

Downing Street accused the Kremlin of being behind the efforts to secure sensitive or embarrassing information in duplicitous calls ahead of the first footage being published on Monday evening.

Officials were understood to be lobbying YouTube to remove the video of Mr Wallace, who thought he was talking to Ukrainian prime minister Denys Shmyhal on a video call.

Home Secretary Priti Patel has also acknowledged having spoken to imposters, while an unsuccessful attempt targeted Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries.

An “official teaser” of the call with Mr Wallace appeared online claiming it was a “video-prank” with “Vovan and Lexus”, a pair previously attributed to a hoax aimed at the Duke of Sussex.

Mr Wallace is shown speaking from Poland as the caller says Ukraine wants to progress a “nuclear programme” to protect itself from Moscow, a claim Russian state media has baselessly claimed in the past.

As the call was published, Mr Wallace suggested the invasion of Ukraine “must be going so badly for the Kremlin” if it was resorting to “video fakes”.

A Ministry of Defence source said the video was “garbage”, adding: “It’s a doctored clip.

“What you don’t hear is the Defence Secretary also saying that the UK can’t have anything to do with alleged Ukrainian nuclear ambitions, because the UK is committed to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.”

Mr Wallace did not appear to say anything particularly embarrassing or sensitive in the video, but it did tout a “full interview” within “a few days”.

Lexus and Vovan have previously targeted Sir Elton John, a vocal opponent of Russia’s “gay propaganda” laws, critics of the Kremlin and world leaders including Canada’s Justin Trudeau.

Critics have accused the pair, real names Vladimir Kuznetsov and Alexei Stolyarov, of having links to Russian security services, something they deny.

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