They are not their first victims. The two Russian comedians Vladimir Kuznetsov and Alexeï Stoliarov (alias Vovan and Lexus) this time posed as members of the African Union (AU) Commission to the Italian head of state Giorgia Meloni.
On the phone, after having managed to contact the Italian Prime Minister, the two Russians engaged in a conversation lasting more than five minutes on September 18, published this Wednesday on the Rumble platform and relayed by the Russian press agency Ria Novosti. The President of the Italian Council had just had important meetings with African leaders on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly which was to be held from September 19 to 21.
In this exchange with undiplomatic overtones, Giorgia Meloni spoke on numerous subjects, without any precaution. On Ukraine, at the heart of the conversation, the conservative head of government remained faithful to her unambiguous position - unlike her late Forza Italia ally Berlusconi. The Ukrainians “are doing what they have to do, what is right to do,” says Meloni in particular, recognizing that the counter-offensive launched at the beginning of the summer “is not going as planned” and has not changed “the course of the conflict”.
Also read: The astonishing hoaxes of a Russian duo serving the Kremlin
The President of the Italian Council also argues that a solution is necessary because the conflict “could last for many years”. “The problem is finding an outcome acceptable to both parties without destroying international law. I have some ideas on how to handle this situation, but I'm waiting for the right moment to put them on the table. Meloni also recognizes a certain “weariness”. “I see that there is a certain weariness, and if I have to tell the truth, on all sides.”
Giorgia Meloni was actually speaking, unknowingly, with Vladimir Kouznetsov (aka “Vovan”) and Alexei Stolaryov (“Lexus”). These two telephone prank aces, past masters in the art of imitation and makeup, when they are not resorting to look-alikes and “deep fakes”, are not their first feats of arms .
Among their “track records”, they have already trapped the President of the European Central Bank Christine Lagarde, the former German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, and even the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. These talented pranksters deny any links with the Kremlin but cybersecurity experts suspect them of being in contact with the Russian security services. “It’s rather we who help them and not the other way around,” they respond in their interviews, without dwelling on the issue.
During this exchange, Giorgia Meloni also spoke of "a very difficult situation on all levels, humanitarian, logistical, security" regarding the wave of massive immigration that Italy has been experiencing since the beginning of the year from the coasts. African. “I believe that this flow could increase due to the situation developing in Africa, especially in the Sahel,” said the head of government before having harsh words on European policy.
“I have just met Charles Michel” and “he thinks that it is mainly a problem on the Italian side,” said the president of the council. “Europe thought for a long time that it could solve the problem by leaving Italy alone. What they don’t understand is that it’s impossible,” Meloni also adds before specifying that “the size of the phenomenon” made a solution involving not only Europe but also “the United Nations” necessary. “The problem is that the others don’t care, they didn’t even answer the phone when I called them. They all agree that Italy must solve this problem alone. It’s a very stupid position.” And to insist: “The EU says it understands. But when you ask them to allocate funds, to help, it becomes more difficult.”
The conversation also concerned the latest events in Niger. “Between you and me, do you think that what is happening in Niger is against France?” asks the head of state before asserting that “France is pushing a little for a kind of intervention” without specify what form this intervention long envisaged by ECOWAS would take. Meloni pleads for an agreement in order to “not make the situation worse” but highlights the differences in priorities, particularly with France. “They have other priorities which are not immigration so their point of view is not mine, I have uranium, they have the CFA franc.”
In Italy, the Prime Minister was widely criticized by the political class who widely denounced worrying security flaws, even though numerous rules have been established to guarantee the security of communications between leaders, as La Repubblica recalls.
Other media, such as Il Corriere della Sera, note, however, that Giorgia Meloni did not differ so much, in this “private” exchange, from her public positions. While recognizing an error in the organization of this telephone call, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Antonio Trajani believes that this exchange is "a clear signal of confirmation of the political line of our country", further indicates Il Corriere.
According to another Italian media, Affaritaliani, the Italian head of state would have sharply reprimanded her collaborators for this blatant error. As reported by this same media, the government headquarters published a press release deploring the incident. “The Office of the Diplomatic Advisor to the President of the Council of Ministers regrets having been misled by an impostor who posed as the President of the African Union Commission and who was put in telephone contact with the President Meloni.