11:48 Mar. 18, 2016
Russian "pranksters" report about their latest spoof
Two Russian "pranksters" whose hoax telephone calls have fooled politicians and pop stars laugh uproariously in a Moscow bar as they read the reports about their latest stunt.
The pair, 30-year-old Vladimir "Vovan" Kuznetsov and 28-year-old Alexei "Lexus" Stolyarov, regularly pull off high-profile pranks on the famous and powerful -- but target mostly Kremlin foes.
Opposition supporters have even suggested they are working on the orders of the Kremlin or the nation's security service, the FSB, but they both deny the claims.
In September they convinced Elton John that Russian President Vladimir Putin was on the line -- and wanted to meet to discuss gay rights.
Delighted, the openly gay British pop star gushed online about the call, only for the Kremlin to deny it ever happened.
Putin then contacted Elton and offered him a genuine meeting, apologising for the pranksters who he described as "harmless".
In their latest headline-grabbing wheeze, they tricked the legal team of Ukrainian military pilot Nadiya Savchenko, who is on trial in Russia over the killings of two Russian journalists in eastern Ukraine.
Posing as advisors of Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, they persuaded Savchenko's lawyers to relay a message from the head of state, imploring her to halt her hunger strike, which she did.
Savchenko later claimed that "whole departments of Russian special services" were behind the ruse.
Kuznetsov mocked her suggestion. "If her lawyer's an idiot, what's the FSB got to do with it?", he says.
Alongside him sat his partner in crime Stolyarov, sporting a Beatles T-shirt and leather jacket.
"According to the Internet comments, we became (FSB) colonels or majors long ago," says Kuznetsov, a quietly-spoken man wearing a black overcoat.
Yet their detractors have suggested that the pranksters could have only contacted such high-profile individuals with help from Russia's spy agency. Savchenko, who risks a long jail term if convicted, might not seem an obvious target for a light-hearted prank. Full story