Russian pranksters posing as top Ukrainian officials issued a surreal warning to Alaska's Governor Mike Dunleavy that Russia is concocting sinister plans to take his state back.
Vladimir ‘Vovan’ Kuznetsov and Alexei ‘Lexus’ Stolyarov, a pair of Russian radio hosts who frequently troll politicians over the phone, introduced themselves as Ukraine’s former prime minister, Volodymyr Groysman, and former ambassador to the US, Valeriy Chaly.
During the conversation, the pranksters speak of former President Poroshenko’s electoral chances, meaning that the conversation took place at some point before the 31 March presidential election.
Vovan and Lexus tell Dunleavy that President Poroshenko is going to visit Alaska as part of a trip to the United States in April (which actually never happened). They suggest that Ukraine’s president take a dog sled ride in Klondike, famed for its Gold Rush, and “find some gold” there. The governor, who said his own grandmother was originally from Ukraine, appears excited to hear about the visit.
The pranksters inquire as to whether Dunleavy’s aides could give a gold bar to Poroshenko to make it look like he found it himself. He replies that he could “talk with some folks who could arrange that”.
The conversation then takes a darker turn as ‘ambassador Chaly’ brings up what he calls the Russian threat. “I would like to worry you about some threat – Russian threat, I mean. As you know, Mr. Putin’s ambitions are now reaching the Arctic. In addition, Russia has an old dream to regain Alaska. You probably know this,” he says.
Dunleavy replies that he has been “reading up on it” and monitoring the situation, just like President Trump.
Chaly/Lexus immediately turns up the heat, pointing to “rumours” of secret negotiations between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin, which allegedly resulted in a “Pact of Rastorguyev”.
According to pseudo-Chaly, Rastorguyev occupies the non-existent position of the special representative of Russia for “Alaska issues”. In fact, Nikolai Rastorguyev, 62, is a famous Russian singer who authored the 90’s hit ‘Don’t Play the Fool, America!’ joking about the return of Alaska to Russia.
A confused Dunleavy says Alaska “has no desire” to accede to Russia, but Chaly/Lexus says there is reason for concern as the Russians want to take it back because they “believe they did not sell Alaska in 1867 but rented it out for 99 years.”
“They’ll have fire on their hands,” Dunleavy answers firmly.
The absurd keeps piling on, as the pranksters tell the governor, citing “our colleagues in the State Department”, that Russian agents are bribing local Indian tribes, including Eskimos and Aleuts. Dunleavy promises to relay that to officials in Washington.
Vovan and Lexus then warn Dunleavy that Russia plans to stage a “fake” in-state referendum in Alaska on declaring independence from the US and joining Russia.
Vovan says that Kseniya Sobchak, a Russian TV host, politician and the goddaughter of Vladimir Putin, is working on the “fake referendum” plans under the guise of humanitarian missions to Alaska.
“Mr. Governor, this is ambassador Chaly,” Lexus chimes in. “Do you know that Russians are already campaigning for the annexation of Alaska by Russia in Washington, DC?”
“I wasn’t aware of that,” Dunleavy says, admitting that he has heard some “rumours.”
“This is happening in Washington, DC right now,” Chaly/Lexus continues. “Just by the windows of our embassy a concert of Russian singers is taking place. [These are] famous Russian singers, like 50 Cent. He is singing a song where he demands the return of Alaska to Russia and threatens with consequences.”
Lexus says that 50 Cent is singing about the reunification of Alaska and Russia with the help of banya (steam bath), vodka, accordion, and salmon – repeating a line from Nikolai Rastorguyev’s song.
“I open the window right now just so you try and listen,” Lexus says, turning on ‘Don’t Play the Fool, America!’
He warns that 50 Cent will soon go to Alaska to hold “hell dances” there and bribe locals with “Putin’s dirty money”, and asks Dunleavy to detain the singer.
Dunleavy, who has apparently becoming increasingly unenthusiastic throughout the conversation, promises to “pass on” the information and says he has to head to another meeting.
At the end, the pranksters make the governor write down Rastorguyev’s name letter by letter, so it could be passed to the police.
The governor is yet to confirm the call, although it appears to be genuine: the Russian duo has already pranked a bunch of US officials, including Adam Schiff, Rick Perry, Maxine Waters, John McCain, Nikki Haley, Elliot Abrams, and Lindsey Graham.