April 24, 2019 / 5:15 PM / 7 months ago

Russian pranksters posing as Ukraine president-elect trick France's Macron

FILE PHOTO: Russian pranksters Vladimir Kuznetsov (L) and Alexei Stolyarov, also known as Vovan and Lexus, attend the presentation of their new book in Moscow, Russia September 14, 2017. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin/File Photo

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian pranksters posing as Ukrainian president-elect Volodymyr Zelenskiy tricked French President Emmanuel Macron into a hoax phone call after Sunday’s Ukrainian presidential vote.

In audio from a 15-minute phone call posted on YouTube on Wednesday, Russian pranksters Vovan and Lexus get through to Macron by pretending to be Zelenskiy, a comedian with no political experience who won the Ukrainian presidential vote in a landslide on Sunday. The exact timing of the call was unclear.

An official at the French presidency told Reuters that it would not comment on the video, saying it would neither confirm nor deny its authenticity.

Vovan and Lexus are known in Russia for targeting celebrities and politicians with prank phone calls and have in the past tricked British singer Elton John and former British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, among many others.

One of the pranksters, impersonating Zelenskiy, joked that his winning 73 percent of the vote in the Ukrainian election was reminiscent of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s own strong election results.

In the recording, a voice that sounds like Macron can be heard joking that Ukraine was not like Russia in at least one respect. “You haven’t yet put all opponents in jail.”

Zelenskiy met with Macron earlier this month in Paris ahead of the run-off against Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko.

Reporting by Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber and Jean-Baptiste Vey in Paris; Editing by Toby Chopra

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