Arms for Ukraine, Mercenaries & Nukes: Pranksters Who Fooled UK Defence Chief Release Full Video
17:09 GMT 24.03.2022 (Updated: 19:37 GMT 19.10.2022)
Last week, UK Defence Chief Ben Wallace told The Telegraph that he had been targeted by a “Russian imposter” posing as the Ukrainian prime minister in a video call designed to extract sensitive information and “embarrass” him. Soon after, infamous Russian pranksters Vovan and Lexus released clips of their conversation with Wallace.
Vovan and Lexus have released a full, 16-minute video of their conversation with UK Secretary of Defence Wallace, and the clip, in which they pretended to be the Ukrainian prime minister, Denys Shmygal, contains new quips not seen in previously released
A video of the call was originally posted on the pranksters' official YouTube channel, which was blocked by the platform on Saturday.
UK Ready to Discuss ‘Security Alliance’
Asked to comment on the prospects of a military alliance between Britain and Ukraine, Wallace said that the UK was “very keen to support you in any negotiations.”
“I know, my understanding is that President Zelensky is quite keen to see the United Kingdom alongside Ukraine in these negotiations because of the experience that we (well we didn’t have), but the bad experience of the Minsk Agreement, where just France and Germany were there and I think there is a desire for the UK and the US. And I think all of those subjects, including a security alliance, I think, is something to discuss with you on those negotiations,” the official said.
“We would like to be close to you in these negotiations for really two reasons - so we could provide our intelligence to you as much as possible to let you know what the Russians are thinking, and to just allow you all to be able to explore with us what you think is feasible,” Wallace added.
Signed in February of 2015, the Minsk agreements saw the leaders of Ukraine, Russia, Germany and France gather in the Belarusian capital to hammer out a peace treaty – including a ceasefire deal and a peace plan aimed at putting an end to the conflict in the Donbass by reintegrating the region into Ukraine in exchange for constitutionally-guaranteed autonomy. In the seven years since the agreement was signed, successive Ukrainian governments failed to make necessary reforms, notwithstanding pressure
from both Russia and Europe (but, crucially – not the Washington establishment) to do so.
Asked to comment on the Kremlin's negotiating position in the Ukraine crisis, including the requirement of “iron-clad” guarantees that Ukraine will not join NATO, Wallace said that “the freedom to choose is a very important freedom for Ukraine. Russia’s other demands of Crimea and Donbass, to abandon all those, which I don’t think Ukraine will, but if Russia was to be successful, the question is, you know, Russia is still a war criminal, with sanctions around its neck and deserves to keep them there,” he said.
“When it comes to discussions about security guarantees, I think we need to support you in what is the other parts of the agreement as well, you know, what are other parts of the agreement that Russia will demand and whether you think they are appropriate or whether they are acceptable. Because I don’t think Russia should be able to demand anything other than going home,” Wallace added.
The minister said the British government was “sad” about Kiev’s current predicament, because “Britain was one of those countries that wanted you to join NATO. There are thirty nations in NATO and that is part of the problem. It’s not easy to get every single one to say yes. And we have always wanted you to join NATO, which is why our training teams were there to help you over the last five years trying to get to the right stage, and you were there. That is a deep sense of regret.”
No-Fly Zone & British Warships in the Black Sea
Asked to comment on Ukraine’s repeated requests that NATO set up a no-fly zone over Ukraine, Wallace ably deflected the direction of the inquiry to discuss Britain’s arms deliveries. “I’ve just been looking at our new anti-aircraft missile that we’re sending you which is better than Stinger, it’ll work at night. It’s a very, very fast missiles and it will help close the skies to Russian aircraft,” he said.
Wallace also suggested that a no-fly zone would be a two-way street, preventing Ukraine’s own aircraft and Turkish-sourced drones from operating and attacking Russian ground forces.
Asked whether the UK might deploy its warships in the Black Sea to help Ukraine, Wallace returned: “Right now you mean, in the war?”
“So look, we are, as you know, we are not going to directly attack Russian ships or Russian airplanes. Not at this stage will we be doing this, and, as you know, that is a difficult thing for me to say. We will help you with a whole range of weapons that can deal with those, including potentially in the Black Sea,” he said.
The defence minister mentioned a 2021 UK stunt involving the sailing the HMS Defender destroyer into Russian territorial waters around Crimea. “Remember last year we took HMS Defender past Crimea and the Russians behaved illegally then. So look, I am considering more and more weapons systems to help. We will go into the Black Sea, I think we’re due to go soon. How close we go to Ukrainian waters where the Russians currently have a blockade I think we will be open to discussions about looking at that.”
Asked whether the UK might join Ukraine in fighting Russia directly in the “next stage,” Wallace avoided the bait. “On the next stage, we would always be keen to be with you in Ukraine. But I mean - if a peace deal is there, we’re not going to – if you make a deal that is right for you in Ukraine and you are happy to deliver, Britain will look at all options to help you, including being in Ukraine. I have troops in Poland, I have troops in Estonia, I have troops in Lithuania. I am happy to be with you in Ukraine in, obviously subject to – if you remember we had 100 troops, an orbital training team, we’ve had that since 2015. But we could look at all sorts of options,” he noted.
UK Said To Be Running Out of NLAWs for Its Own Army
Asked whether the UK would be able to provide Ukraine with newer NLAW anti-tank missiles due to high failure rate of old ones, Wallace bristled, noting that Britain’s deliveries were not failing, and that the country was sending so many of the weapons to the defense of Ukraine that the British Army was running out of its own stocks.
“I don’t think ours have failed. I’ve got the details of ours. We’ve given you over 4,000. We’ve got more coming. We’re running out of our own,” Wallace said. He added that Ukrainian officials were slowing the delivery of supplies by insisting that weapons be sent via one particular route.
After the prankster suggested that Kiev was “interested” in exploring a nuclear weapons programme, Wallace said that Russia would “really hate that,” and called the issue one of those “bigger questions” that he would need to speak to the prime minister about.
He added, however, that “the principle is, we will support Ukraine as our friend in the choices you make. Whether you want to be part of NATO or you don’t want to be part of NATO, whether you want to explore new weapons, etc. That is all a matter for you to decide and for the West to, in a sense, stand by you.”
“Any proposals you talk about are something that the UK would discuss. On your acquisition of a nuclear – you think you want to explore a nuclear weapon, I think I would just be very careful about all of that. We are a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation [Treaty]. We can’t be seen to be doing that. That is an entirely different issue so I think we have to be very careful with that,” Wallace noted.
20 February 2022, 19:13 GMT
‘I’m Not Responsible for Idiots’
Asked to comment on the testimony
of a former British soldier who volunteered to fight in Ukraine but quit after less than a day citing the terrifying conditions, the lack of supplies and the demand that foreign legion fighters sign indefinite contracts, Wallace noted that the issue was no responsibility of his.
“Look I’m not responsible for idiots that come and give interviews on media, I’m afraid. I can try and stop them, but there are also no doubt people who have come to help you, who are perfectly happy to stand and fight alongside you. If some idiot from Cardiff decides to give an interview. He’s probably an idiot….We’re trying to discourage people coming who, what we would call, are ‘Walter Mittys’ – people who are thrill seekers who haven’t really been in the army, are probably failures, rather, than the army, but we’ll see what we can do,” Wallace observed.
Commenting on a trailer of the prank call that was released Tuesday, a UK Defence Ministry source called it “doctored.”
Wallace spoke to The Telegraph last week to report that he had been targeted by a “Russian imposter,” and that the video call was “properly set up.” He said he really believed that he had been speaking to Ukrainian Prime Minister Denes Shmygal, and but that he eventually “got suspicious and, after about eight, nine minutes…terminated the call.”
An inquiry has been set to investigate the incident, Wallace said.
Soon after Wallace disclosed the prank, Home Secretary Priti Patel said she too had been a victim of the pranksters. In a comment under their YouTube video with the Wallace conversation, Vovan and Lexus promised that the “prank with Priti Patel” would be released “soon.”
Vovan and Lexus, real names Vladimir Kuznetsov and Alexei Stolyarov, are Russian radio hosts who have become notorious for staging interviews with Russian and foreign public figures, ranging from celebrities like Prince Harry, Monica Lewinsky, Billie Eilish and Elton John, to political leaders including Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, French President Emmanuel Macron, and others.
While their interviews typically include lighthearted and silly moments, like the time
they convinced EU chief Jean-Claude Juncker that Kim Kardashian wanted a job in the Armenian Foreign Ministry, they also occasionally result in insights into major diplomatic and military issues. In 2019, for example, Elliot Abrams, a Trump administration official in charge of Washington’s regime change strategy in Venezuela, told the pair
that US plans did not include a direct invasion. Last year, a top Swedish diplomat revealed
to the comedians that there was no unified position in Europe on the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline.
19 October 2019, 07:24 GMT