Gaffe-Prone Boris Johnson Unscathed After Russian Prank Call

(Bloomberg) -- It’s embarrassing that a pair of Russian pranksters managed to get Boris Johnson on the phone. What is more surprising is that Britain’s gaffe-prone foreign secretary stuck to his script and didn’t embarrass himself.

Known for his colorful turn of phrase and a career littered with apologies for causing offense, Johnson followed the U.K. line when he received a call that appeared to be from Nikol Pashinyan, the new Armenian prime minister.

The disappointment of the callers was clear in a report in the pro-Kremlin tabloid newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda. Johnson turned out to be “a smart diplomat, an intellectual,” Alexei Stolyarov, told the newspaper. It’s “probably the first time the person we talked to who was not a fool,” he said.

During the half-hour call on May 8, Johnson repeated his public assertions that Britain doesn’t want a new cold war, and is “absolutely sure” that Russia was behind the poisoning of former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, in England in March. “Almost 100 percent,” he said.

“Russians should know that the U.K. will counter them firmly and we will continue pressing on some of Putin’s circle oligarchs,” Johnson said, according to a transcript published by the newspaper. “We will look for ways to put more pressure on them in line with our legislation.”

The transcript appears to show that Johnson realized he was being tricked, and he extracted himself from the conversation.

“The Foreign Secretary realized it was a hoax, and ended the call,” the U.K. Foreign Office said in an emailed statement. “We checked it out and knew immediately it was a prank call. The use of chemical weapons in Salisbury and Syria, and recent events in Armenia are serious matters. These childish actions show the lack of seriousness of the caller and those behind him.”

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