PRINCE Harry appears to have become the latest victim of notorious Russian hoaxers Vladimir Kuznetsov and Alexei Stolyarov – aka ‘Vovan and Lexus’.
Posing as famous Swedish environmentalist Greta Thunberg in a prank call, they tricked him into revealing his true feelings about Megxit, Donald Trump and even Boris Johnson.
Who are the Russian hoaxers that pranked Prince Harry?
Alexei Stolyarov and Vladimir Kuznetsov are notorious in Russia for their shockingly successful phone hoaxes.
They somehow manage to dupe a wide range of celebrities and people in power, from royals to politicians.
Despite cold calling their victims, the pair – also known by their aliases Vovan and Lexus – trick them into revealing their opinions and deepest secrets.
While the media are kept at arms-length from many a famous person, courtesy of wary PR minders, the men successfully talk their way straight to the top, apparently also fooling those who would normally act as gatekeepers.
While they easily entice others to reveal their true thoughts, not much is known about the mysterious pair themselves.
A story in The Moscow Times last year questioned their access to high-profile figures.
It pointed out: “The lack of intervention by Russian security services has led observers to suggest Vovan and Lexus are working under an arrangement with the Kremlin.”
But, in an interview with GQ, they advised against “mixing us in with the Kremlin – as in, don’t write about our connection with the Kremlin as an established fact.”
Back in 2016, The Moscow Times described Kuznetsov as a lawyer, then aged 30, and Stolyarov as a “28-year-old economist”.
The publication said they started honing their prank call skills about 15 years ago, when they would contact “Russian celebrities just for the fun of it”.
Kuznetsov “eventually got a job at a tabloid magazine. His prank-calling helping him get exclusive information from celebrities.”
But he apparently quit the job as he “got tired of show-business stuff… same faces, same scandals, same dirt”.
Instead, his and Stolyarov’s phone-trickery prowess was diverted to fooling politicians.
How did they pretend to be Greta Thunberg?
The Duke of Sussex was said to be hoodwinked into speaking about his decision to quit the royal family by the Russian hoaxers when they posed as activist Greta Thunberg and her dad, Svante.
The royal purportedly told them that “extreme” action had to be taken to save the planet.
During two phone calls recorded by the pranksters, Prince Harry also claimed that US President Donald Trump has “blood on his hands”.
The conversations took place on New Year’s Eve and January 22, according to an extract from one of the recorded calls put on YouTube along with an animated cartoon of Harry.
During the prank call, a stuttering ‘Harry’ can be heard saying “good evening” from Canada.
He’s told by a man on the phone that “Greta is in a conference”, before a friendly-sounding young woman interrupts with “hi Royal Highness Harry, nice to meet you, nice to hear you, or just Harry?”
The royal replies: “You can call me whatever you want, but Harry is fine,” before laughing.
In the audio, a voice which is reportedly the duke’s tells hoaxers that the world is being led by “some very sick people”.
He adds: “The fossil fuel industry and certain presidents around the world are driving completely the wrong agenda.
“I think the mere fact that Donald Trump is pushing the coal industry so big in America, he has blood on his hands.
“Because the effect that that has on the climate and the island nations far, far away – again out of sight, out of mind.”
Harry tells the fake campaigner that he is “confident” that in the next five to ten years “things will change” with regard to the climate agenda.
He also says: “But we can’t wait five to ten years, so I think if Donald Trump can become president of the United States of America, then anything’s possible, right?”
What other pranks have they pulled on celebrities?
Loads of prominent people have been made a fool of by the Russian hoaxers.
The pair have pranked:
- French President Emmanuel Macron by posing as Volodymyr Zelenskiy, a comedian with no political experience who won the Ukrainian presidential vote
- Boris Johnson – then Foreign Secretary – was targeted by a caller pretending to be Armenia’s new Prime Minister. The UK government believed the Kremlin was behind the hoax
- In 2015, they gained worldwide notoriety after pretending to be Russian President Vladimir Putin, to gain access to Sir Elton John. They were so believable that the singer even posted his thanks on Instagram, after discussing laws against “gay propaganda”
- And they claim to have tricked Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders into agreeing to a rap collaboration with Greta Thunberg, Billie Eilish and Kanye West
- Earlier this year, Stolyarov and Kuznetsov managed to fool Democrat Congresswoman Maxine Waters – when they pretended to be Greta Thunberg and her dad to get her to talk about Donald Trump
- They have also spoken to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, by convincing him that he was chatting with then Ukraine leader Petro Poroshenko and PM Arseniy Yatsenyuk. But Turkey later downplayed the hoax, dismissing it as fake news
- The Russians pretended to be former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili to trick Moldovan leader Nicolae Timofti, and they have also successfully targeted Belorussian President Alexander Lukashenko