Sunday 27 March 2022

UK Govt Pressures YouTube to Censor Video of Defence Sec’s Embarrassing Call with Fake Ukrainian Prime Minister


Britain’s Ministry of Defence pressured YouTube to remove footage of a Russian YouTuber fooling the Defence Secretary into thinking he was the Ukrainian prime minister, claiming it had been “doctored”.

Ben Wallace MP was left red-faced after Russian pranksters Vladimir Kuznetsov and Alexey Stolyarov, known as Vovan and Lexus, managed to bypass Ministry of Defence security while posing as Ukraine’s Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal, managing to record a video call with the Cabinet minister on the 18th of March.

Vovan and Lexus have pulled similar pranks for years, successfully fooling high-profile figures including Sir Elton John, the President of Turkey, the former President of Ukraine, U.S. energy secretary Rick Perry, and even Boris Johnson during his time as Foreign Secretary.

While embarrassing, the call to Wallace was initially accepted as harmless — but the Ministry of Defence (MoD) has since alleged that the third released clip of the hoax call contains what Wallace describes as “total clipped garbage”.

The MoD warned the assumed pranksters were spreading “propaganda” to aid Russia’s war machine.

In the clip, Wallace appears to suggest that Britain is “sad” after Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky announced they would not be joining NATO as “Britain is one of those countries that wanted you to join NATO,” the Telegraph reports.

The MoD also claim the clips falsely report that NLAW anti-tank missiles supplied to Ukraine from Britain have failed to function and that the United Kingdom is running out of its own supplies.

Wallace reacted furiously to the clips on Friday, branding them as “Russian disinformation, distortion and dirty tricks”.

A Number 10 spokesman branded the clips as “standard practice for Russian information operations.”

“Disinformation is a tactic straight from the Kremlin playbook to try to distract from their illegal activities in Ukraine and the human rights abuses being committed there”, the spokesman claimed.

Number 10 also revealed that a Russian prankster got through to Home Secretary Priti Patel — also duped into believing she was speaking to Shmyhal — and that dubious individuals had also tried to contact Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries. 

After reporting the clips — which YouTube initially declined to take down — the MoD sent a strongly-worded letter to YouTube in which they warned that “any perceived failure of our lethal aid supplied to support Ukraine will provide an immediate detrimental effect upon the morale of Ukrainian forces mounting resistance to Russian aggression and create another chapter in the Kremlin’s playbook of disinformation and lies”.

Britain’s Ministry of Defence went on to suggest to the Google-owned video-sharing company that they would not want to appear to be a “conduit for Russian propaganda or be in any way associated with the potential consequences of this time of media manipulation”.

Separately, an MoD source went as far as to say that “YouTube is in danger of aiding and abetting the Russian state propaganda machine, putting people at risk.”

Subsequently, YouTube pulled the videos on Saturday, finding they did not breach their “community guidelines” but accepting they could be used to benefit Russia’s President Vladimir Putin in his war on Ukraine. They then deleted the channel, which had over 110,000 subscribers, altogether.

“We have terminated the YouTube channel Vovan222prank as part of our ongoing investigation into coordinated influence operations linked to Russia,” a YouTube spokesman announced on Saturday.

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