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Putin’s Russia blamed by No 10 for hoax calls targeting Johnson’s Cabinet

Prime Minister’s official spokesman said it was a tactic “straight out of the Kremlin playbook”.

21 March 2022

The UK has publicly blamed Vladimir Putin’s Russia for hoax calls targeting British ministers in the hope of securing sensitive or embarrassing information.

Home Secretary Priti Patel and Defence Secretary Ben Wallace both spoke to imposters posing as the Ukrainian prime minister, while an unsuccessful attempt was also made to target Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries.

Mr Wallace said at the time of the incident last week he believed Russia was to blame and Downing Street had not publicly pointed the finger at the Kremlin.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “The Russian state was responsible for the hoax telephone calls made to UK ministers last week.

“This is standard practice for Russian information operations and disinformation is a tactic straight from the Kremlin playbook to try to distract from their illegal activities in Ukraine and the human rights abuses being committed there.

“We are seeing a string of distraction stories and outright lies from the Kremlin, reflecting Putin’s desperation as he seeks to hide the scale of the conflict and Russia’s failings on the battlefield.”

Senior Government sources fear the Russians may attempt to doctor footage obtained in the calls in an attempt to embarrass the UK.

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

He also launched a cross-Whitehall investigation to understand how he ended up on a video call with a hoaxer pretending to be Ukrainian prime minister Denys Shmyhal.

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