U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry spent 22 minutes speaking with someone he thought was Ukraine Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman. It turns out he was actually speaking with a Russian prankster, the Energy Department admitted Tuesday.
Pranksters Vladimir Krasnov and Alexei Stolyarov are famous for targeting celebrities and politicians, Energy Department spokeswoman Shaylyn Hynes said in a written statement.
Perry is not the first victim to fall prey to the pranksters practical jokes, who have earned the nickname “Jerky Boys of Russia.” Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Sen. John McCain and Elton John have also receive phony calls. The British singer believed he was speaking to Russian President Vladimir Putin and even posted an Instagram thanking the Russian leader for reaching out to him.
“These individuals are known for pranking high-level officials and celebrities, particularly those who are supportive of an agenda that is not in line with their governments. In this case, the energy security of Ukraine,” Hynes said.
The conversation on July 19, which was posted on a Russian news site, consisted 22 minutes of dialogue regarding issues such as a potential pipeline cross the Baltic Sea for Russian gas, the cyberattacks on the U.S. power grid, and coal exports to Ukraine.
President Donald Trump has said that Washington plans to work with Ukraine to provide more coal exports from the United States. Despite the uncertainty, Perry hinted that the Commerce Department was working on it.
“The coal conversation at this particular point in time is with (Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross) and I full well suspect it will go forward,” Perry said.
They also continued to discuss the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris climate accord.
“I hope that stepping away from the Paris accord will not have any negative impact with our relationship with the Ukraine,” Perry said in the phone call. “We tried to divorce the politics from this and really just let our record stand, one that I’m very proud of.”