US energy secretary duped into fake interview with Russian comedians

world Updated: Jul 26, 2017 16:57 IST
US energy secretary Rick Perry,Russian pranksters,Russian President Vladimir Putin

File photo of US energy secretary Rick Perry.(Reuters)

US energy secretary Rick Perry optimistically discussed expanding American coal exports to Ukraine and other energy matters during a lengthy phone call this month with Russian pranksters who Perry thought was Ukraine’s prime minister.

Perry actually was talking with comedians known in Russia for targeting celebrities and politicians with audacious stunts, energy department spokeswoman Shaylyn Hynes said in a written statement.

Pranksters Vladimir Krasnov and Alexei Stolyarov are sometimes called the “Jerky Boys of Russia,” after an American duo who put out recordings of their prank phone calls in the 1990s. They have made faux calls to British singer Elton John, who thought he was speaking to Russian President Vladimir Putin, and others.

“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,” Hynes said.

During the 22-minute call on July 19, Perry, whose department oversees the US nuclear weapons programme, discussed a range of topics, including sanctions against Russia and helping Ukraine develop oil and gas.

Suspicions might have been raised when the conversation turned to a claim by the pretend PM that the Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko had invented a new biofuel made from home-brewed alcohol and pig manure, according to a translation reported in the Washington Post.

The energy secretary – who appeared to be relying on a translator during the conversation – welcomed the idea as “interesting”. He would be visiting Kiev in August, he told his caller. “I look forward to visiting with the president and getting a more in-depth briefing … If that’s the result, then he’s going to be a very, very wealthy and successful man.”

Perry said the Trump administration opposes Nord Stream 2 — a Russian project to bring natural gas to Europe across the Baltic and that US technology could help Ukraine develop gas.

“Giving Ukraine more options with some of our technology is, I think, in everyone’s best interest with the exception of the Russians, but that’s OK,” he said.

Perry also discussed the Paris climate accord and coal exports on the call.

The call, first reported by E&E news, was recorded and posted on the Russian news site Vesti . It happened about a month after Perry met with President Poroshenko and his delegation at the energy department.

First Published: Jul 26, 2017 16:57 IST