Russian Pranksters Dupe Canadian Lawmakers With Fake Navalny Act

Canadian lawmakers were tricked by Russian pranksters claiming to be one of opposition leader Alexey Navalny’s key supporters at a closed-door meeting last month.

On April 22, Canada’s parliamentary foreign affairs committee heard testimony from a witness claiming to be Leonid Volkov, chief of staff to the imprisoned critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, Vice News reported Tuesday. Instead, lawmakers listened to pranksters Vladimir Kuznetsov and Alexei Stolyarov impersonating the Navalny aide for 25 minutes before realizing they’d been tricked.

Russian Pranksters Dupe Canadian Lawmakers With Fake Navalny Act

The committee confirmed the Vice report later Tuesday. Shortly after the meeting began “it became clear that the individual was misrepresenting himself, and the committee promptly suspended -- and then terminated -- the meeting to investigate further,” the group said in a statement.

The real Volkov is scheduled to testify about Navalny’s current situation on Thursday. Kuznetsov and Stolyarov told Vice that they plan to upload scenes from the April 22 meeting onto their YouTube channel.

Lawmakers in the Netherlands, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia recently fell for the same ruse from the duo, who have built a reputation targeting Western politicians by posing as famous people. The pair also convinced Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s office to have a call by claiming to be teenage climate-change activist Greta Thunberg.

Canada’s foreign affairs committee “condemns these repeated attempts aimed at misleading parliamentarians on a very serious situation,” it said in its statement, adding that Russia’s continued arrests of Navalny sympathizers make it “more determined to be fully and properly briefed on the situation.”

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

BQ Install

Bloomberg Quint

Add BloombergQuint App to Home screen.