Italian PM Meloni’s office says she regrets her frank talk in unknowing call with Russian pranksters

Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni‘s office said she regrets the unwitting comments she made about Ukraine “fatigue” and European migration in a call with two Russian pranksters.

Ms. Meloni was under the impression that she was speaking to a top African official.

The call in English took place on Sept. 18, just a day before Ms. Meloni‘s flurry of meetings with African leaders on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly from Sept. 19-21.



In a statement to Italian news agency ANSA, the country’s Diplomatic Advisor’s Office said it “regrets having been misled by an impostor who passed himself off as the President of the African Union Commission.”

Audio from the conversation was uploaded by the duo Vovan and Lexus on Canadian video-hosting site Rumble on Wednesday. Lexus, whose real name is Alexey Stolyarov, did the talking, while Vovan, or Vladimir Kuznetsov, listened in.

On the call, Ms. Meloni talked about Ukraine’s war effort as well as migration into Europe. She has taken a consistently pro-Ukraine stance in public.

“After the Russian aggression against Ukraine, all together we decided to defend international law,” Ms. Meloni said at a White House meeting with U.S. President Biden in July.

On the phone call with the pranksters, Ms. Meloni argued that both sides were getting closer to looking for a diplomatic way out, with the alternative being a protracted, possibly yearslong conflict.

“There is a lot of fatigue, I have to say the truth, from all the sides. We are near the moment in which everybody understands that we need a way out. … The counteroffensive of Ukraine is maybe not going as they were expecting it is going, but it didn’t change the destiny of the conflict. Everybody understands that it really could last many years if we don’t try to find some solutions,” Ms. Meloni said.

“The problem is to find a way out which can be acceptable for both, without destroying the international law,” she said.

On the issue of migrants crossing the Mediterranean to Italy, Ms. Meloni said, “Europe has for a long time thought that it could solve the problem by limiting it to Italy. What they don’t understand is that it’s impossible. The dimension of this phenomenon is such that it involves not only the EU, but in my opinion also the U.N..”

Mr. Stolyarov credited Ms. Meloni with her frankness on the prank call.

“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.

The Italian leader is far from the first victim of the Russian duo’s prank calls. In October alone, they also claimed to have spoofed Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez and the foreign ministers of Sweden, Finland and Denmark in their calls.

In 2016, the pair said they also fooled Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

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