Russian pranksters said they had duped the UK’s Prince Harry into thinking he was speaking to teenage environmental campaigner Greta Thunberg, in a hoax call in which he revealed details on his decision to quit royal life, according to a British report published Wednesday.
Vladimir Krasnov and Aleksey Stolyarov – known respectively as the Russian pranksters “Vovan” and “Lexus” – said they tricked the prince into opening up about recent tensions within the royal family that led to the Duke and Duchess of Sussex stepping back from life as senior royals, the report in The Sun says.
Prince Harry, purportedly believing he was speaking on the phone with Thunberg and her father, said that he was “completely separate” from the British royal family, the report says.
The duo claims that the two phone calls took place on New Year’s Eve and January 22 when Harry was on Vancouver Island, Canada, according to the report.
Buckingham Palace said they would not comment on “the Russian pranksters.”
In edited audio published by The Sun, the Duke of Sussex seems to address the difficult choices the couple had faced: “Sometimes the right decision isn’t always the easy one,” he said.
“And this decision certainly wasn’t the easy one, but it was the right decision for our family, the right decision to be able to protect my son,” he added.
“And I think there’s a hell of a lot of people around the world that can identify and respect us for putting our family first,” he said.
“But, yeah, it’s a tricky one, but we will start a new life.”
It wasn’t clear what questions were asked on the phone call, and only the purported responses from the prince were published. CNN has been unable to verify the recording.
Vovan and Lexus claim to have previously duped other well-known politicians and celebrities, such as actor Joaquin Phoenix, singer Elton John and, more recently, US Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders.
A recording of one of the calls was published on the pair’s YouTube channel with an animation of Prince Harry and Thunberg, according to The Sun, which published that call.
The recording has since been removed temporarily, the duo told CNN, due to an exclusive licensing agreement with The Sun.
According to The Sun, Prince Harry also mentioned US President Donald Trump in one of the calls saying. “I think the mere fact that Donald Trump is pushing the coal industry is so big in America, he has blood on his hands.”
Prince Harry apparently went on to tell the caller: “Trump will want to meet you to make him look better but he won’t want to have a discussion about climate change with you because you will outsmart him.”
Putin apologized for past pranks
In 2015, the duo convinced Elton John he was talking to Russian President Vladimir Putin about gay rights in Russia. The singer – believing he was talking to the President via Kremlin press secretary Dmitry Peskov, who was purportedly translating for the two – said on the call that “he was extremely honored” and that “it is a great privilege to speak to one of the most influential people in the whole world.”
According to Russian media, the real Putin later called Elton John and apologized for the prank and said the two were “harmless.”
The pair have a history of pranking people perceived to be adversaries of Russia and notably do not target Russian officials. But they have denied accusations they are backed by the Kremlin and Russian intelligence services, blaming Russian opposition for peddling this narrative.
“This is a favorite pastime of both the Russian opposition and Ukrainian officials, they blame all of their failures on external factors, such as the FSB, the Kremlin and so on,” Krasnov said in a BBC interview in 2016.
Stolyarov added: “We can responsibly declare, and we have always stated this, that we are not a project of special services, we ourselves are self-sufficient people, we have our own beliefs, our ideas and thoughts.”
Russian state TV has also favorably reported on the comedic pair, doing positive features about their work.
CNN’s Max Foster and journalist Darya Tarasova contributed to this story.