MoD slams Kremlin claims after hoax Ben Wallace call – warning worse fake clips to come

Ukraine: Wallace hoax call 'Russia's dirty trick' says Vereshchuk

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The Kremlin has been blamed after two clips were published in the past 24 hours of a prank call with Defence Secretary Ben Wallace. The senior minister believed he was talking to Ukrainian prime minister Denys Shmyhal in the videos uploaded to YouTube.

“This video, like most Russian propaganda, is fed out to obscure and manipulate the truth,” the Defence Department said.

“People should be very sceptical about reporting on, and accepting as real, any part of these Russian state doctored clips.”

Home Secretary Priti Patel and Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries were also targeted last week as part of the concerted effort by Moscow to undermine the UK and the West.

The videos are presented as being from the self-styled pranksters “Vovan and Lexus” but No 10 insisted the Kremlin is behind the attempted smears.

This afternoon, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) was in talks with YouTube about removing the videos to stop the spread of misinformation.

He said: “I know that DCMS is speaking to YouTube about this.

“We believe, as I say, this is disinformation carried out at the behest of the Russian state and we don’t think social media companies or other sites should be promoting it.”

The spokesman said that internet giants had a “responsibility to not spread Russian disinformation when they’re carrying out an illegal invasion of Ukraine”.

He added: “It is standard practice for Russian information operations to try and use these tactics, it seeks to be a distraction from their illegal activities in Ukraine, their human rights abuses, and so we will not be distracted from our purpose in ensuring Putin must fail in Ukraine.”

Officials fear more clips from the call Russia intends to release and whether similar extracts from the conversation with Ms Patel will be made public.

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A western official said this afternoon: “The primary objective is to embarrass and sow division.

“That has been the way these have been used in the past, so we would expect the information to be leaked out over time.

“I would expect the timing of the releases to be determined to maximise effect.

“I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see that the next step is released during the NATO summit.

“They will particularly be looking for anything which can be used to drive wedges between allies.”

Mr Wallace was targeted last Thursday and held a call with the hoaxer for approximately 10 minutes.

He is said to have ended the call after “becoming suspicious” after questions asked to him became increasingly bizarre.

The Defence Secretary was said to have been furious he ended up on the video call and has launched a cross-Whitehall investigation into how the pranksters were able to connect with him.

Mr Wallace publicly acknowledged he had been targeted shortly after his call in an attempt to get ahead of any attempt by Moscow to circulate footage from it.

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