Seasoned Russian pranksters deceive Powell into chat with Zelensky impersonator

on Apr 28, 2023
  • Russian pranksters pretended to be Ukraine's President Zelensky on a call with Governor Powell.
  • Powell discussed the US economic outlook, interest rate picture and geopolitical scenario.
  • This raises a host of security questions ahead of the FOMC meeting.

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With less than a week to go before the Fed’s much-awaited FOMC meeting, Jerome Powell was blindsided by a rather embarrassing controversy.

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Bloomberg reported that the Fed which continues to battle uncomfortably high levels of inflation appears to have met its match in a prolific Russian prankster-comic duo.

The popular act, Vovan and Lexus have made a name for themselves by deceiving global leaders into engaging in lengthy phone calls by impersonating well-known heads of state.

While the United States is reeling under the highly-damaging Pentagon breach, Jerome Powell was the latest victim of some trickery with the duo posing as Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Although the call was reportedly from January 2023, the news became public only last week when Russian state television aired footage of the meeting much to the delight and amusement of viewers.

Despite their not-always-reliable mimicry, Governor Powell patiently wielded several questions on the US economic outlook; the state of global politics; shared his views on the interest rate pathway and suggested fresh avenues to help the Ukrainian people amid Russia’s invasion.

MarketWatch reported that a Fed spokesperson argued that the video appears to be doctored.

However, the spokesperson did seem to concede that the call took place, stating,

It was a friendly conversation and took place in a context of our standing in support for the Ukrainian people in this challenging time.

Fortunately, no sensitive information was reportedly shared, but it does raise a host of questions about how the duo evaded security protocols around the Federal Reserve’s top official.

A history of pranks

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It appears that the pranksters are well-versed in the art of deception and have pulled off several such stunts in the past.

The New York Times reported that earlier on, Christine Lagarde thought she was in conversation with President Zelensky, while Angela Merkel was misled into thinking that former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko was on the line.

There were similar claims around calls placed to Boris Johnson in 2018.

The Polish President Andrzej Duda’s too supposedly had a conversation with France’s Emmanuel Macron in 2022 which turned out to be fake.

The Federal Reserve has referred the breach to the relevant law enforcement agencies.

Powell’s views

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CNN reported that during the meeting the Governor informed the Zelensky impersonator that a recession was likely to hit in 2023.


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