By James Reinl
NEW YORK (AA) – U.S. lawmaker Lindsey Graham was duped into receiving hoax phone calls from Russian pranksters, one of which posed as Turkey’s defense minister, news website Politico reported Thursday.
Graham, a Republican senator who is frequently allied with U.S. President Donald Trump, was duped into conversations in August about the conflict in northern Syria and Turkey’s purchase of a Russian-built missile system.
But instead of speaking with Turkish defense chief Hulusi Akar, Graham was being duped by Alexey Stolyarov and Vladimir Kuznetsov -- famous Russian telephone pranksters who are known as “Lexus and Vovan”.
“We have been successful in stopping many efforts to prank Senator Graham and the office, but this one slipped through the cracks,” the lawmaker’s spokesman Kevin Bishop told Politico. “They got him.”
Stolyarov and Kuznetsov have a track record of duping politicians and celebrities. Among their victims have been songwriter Elton John and Democratic U.S. lawmaker Adam Schiff.
According to The Guardian newspaper, the pair have been accused of working for the Kremlin and Russia’s security services -- raising fears that American politicians have unwittingly revealed sensitive information to Moscow.
In one of the calls, a recording of which is available on Politico’s website, Graham referred to the Kurds as a “threat” to Turkey, which is at odds with his public comments this week against Ankara’s military push into northeastern Syria.
Believing he was speaking to Turkey’s defense minister, Graham also reportedly expressed concerns about Turkey buying Russia’s S-400 anti-aircraft weapon system and exiting the Pentagon’s F-35 stealth fighter jet program.