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Italy's PM tells prank caller EU leaders are ‘tired of Ukraine war’

Italian Premier Giorgia Meloni meets Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Rome in May
Italian Premier Giorgia Meloni meets Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Rome in May Copyright Alessandra Tarantino/AP
Copyright Alessandra Tarantino/AP
By Katy Dartford
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Giorgia Meloni was reportedly misled by Russian comedians posing as African political leaders.

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The Italian Prime Minister has become the latest Western politician to be caught out by Russian pranksters Vovan and Lexus.

Giorgia Meloni told the pair, who were posing as African diplomats, that European leaders were tired of the war in Ukraine and wanted to broker a deal with the Kremlin to end it.

The 13-minute call dates back to September and was published by the Russian due - whose real names are Vladimir Kuznetsov and Alexei Stolyarov - on the Canadian video-sharing platform Rumble on Wednesday.

Meloni's office said in a statement that it regretted that the Prime minister had been deceived by an impostor posing as the head of the African Union Commission. 

It said the call occurred during the run-up to meetings with African leaders at the United Nations General Assembly.

War fatigue

“There is a lot of tiredness on all sides,” Meloni is heard saying regarding Russia’s war in Ukraine. “The moment is approaching when everyone will understand that we need a way out.

“Ukraine’s counter-offensive is not going as expected (…) It has not changed the fate of the conflict, and everyone understands that [the conflict] could last many years if we don’t find a solution. The Ukrainians are doing what they have to do and we are trying to help them.”

The problem is “finding a way out that is acceptable for both sides without destroying international law”.

Meloni added: “I have some ideas on how to manage this situation, but I’m waiting for the right moment to put them on the table.”

The prank call comes as Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy asked the West not to relent in its support for Ukraine. He said in a recent interview with Time that the “scariest thing” is that some in the world have grown used to the war in Ukraine.

The Italian Prime Minister also spoke to the pranksters about a lack of support for Italy in dealing with migration.

"They do all agree that only Italy has to solve this problem alone. It's a very stupid way of thinking."

Meloni spoke of her sympathy with the UK in trying to clamp down on illegal migrants. She said they are “impossible to integrate” into European society.

“Some of them finish in the hands of criminal organisations (...) The European Commission says it understands this, but when you ask them for money to invest and help countries, it becomes more difficult.”

Prankster Lexus, or Alexei Stolyarov, told Reuters that Meloni was at least someone willing to share her real opinions:

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"Unfortunately, unlike her, many European politicians behave like some kind of programmed robot and express points of view that are only voiced in their own circles," he told Reuters. He did the talking while Vovan also listened in on the call with Meloni, he explained.

Italian opposition parties have criticised Ms Meloni for falling into a "Russian trap".

Former Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte slammed Meloni on X, formerly Twitter, calling her a "fool" who has "revealed truths that she never told Italians".  

Former prime minister Matteo Renzi, now a senator with opposition party Italia Viva, said the recording was a "bad gaffe for Italy and for Giorgia Meloni".

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“What’s at stake here is Italy’s credibility,” he added.

Meloni’s "Brothers of Italy" party have been supportive. Deputy party leader, Andrea Delmastro wrote on X that he preferred "a fake phone call to a real leader!"

Vovan and Lexus, once dubbed Russia's Jerky Boys, have previously targeted other European leaders including former German Chancellor Angela Merkel and former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and personalities such as Sir Elton John and the Duke of Sussex.

The duo have been accused of being actors for the Russian government, a claim which the comedians deny.

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