Spain‘s Defence Minister has been ridiculed after falling victim to two famous pranksters who told her deposed Catalan president Carles Puigdemont was a Russian spy codenamed Cipollino.
Russians Alexei Stolyarov and Vlamidir Kuznetsov, better known as Lexus and Vovan, made headlines two years ago after fooling Sir Elton John into thinking he was talking to Vladimir Putin about gay rights.
Last night Maria Dolores de Cospedal was put on the back foot after she was apparently duped into believing she was talking to Latvia’s Defence Minister Raimonds Bergmanis.
Spanish defence minister Maria Dolores de Cospedal, right, was conned by two Russian pranksters who claimed Catalonia’s president Carles
Instead, she was talking to pranksters Vladimir Kuznetsov, 30, and Alexei Stolyarov, 28
Stolyarov told her Puigdemont, fighting extradition from Belgium to Spain and the possibility of a 30-year prison sentence for rebellion, had been working for Russian intelligence for some time.
When he added: ‘In fact, 50 per cent of the Russian tourists that visit Catalonia cooperate with the Russian intelligence services’, shocked Dolores de Cospedal replied: ’50 per cent?’ before continuing the conversation for several more minutes.
The Spanish Defence Minister agreed to transfer the information she was being given to her PM Mariano Rajoy.
At one point in the conversation, which has now been made public and seized upon by Spanish newspapers to the embarrassment of the Madrid-born 51-year-old, her fake Latvian counterpart offered to send his country’s army to Barcelona.
She responded to claims Puigdemont was working for the Russian government under the codename Cipollino by saying: ‘I am going to call my Prime Minister and tell him’ before asking the pranksters: ‘How long have you known Puigdemont has had a relationship with Russian intelligence?’
She added afterwards: ‘I think we have the situation under control because the lies of Puigdemont and his allies are disentangling in Europe but it’s important that the whole truth is known.’
Last night Dolores de Cospedal took to Twitter to insist she had suspected the pair were mischief-makers.
She wrote: ‘It was a very strange conversation. I asked to speak in English and they didn’t want to.
‘They removed the translator. As I was suspicious, I let them talk and didn’t call back. Now I know they were Russians.’
But social media users laid into the Defence Minister, with one posting crying emoticons and saying: ‘And this is the head of the Spanish Army!!!’
Another added: ‘With the Defence Minister and the Foreign Affairs Minister Spain has got, the consolidation of the independent Catalan Republic is just a question of time.’
Earlier this year US Energy Secretary was fooled by Lexus and Vovan into believing he was speaking to Ukrainian PM Volodymyr Groysman during a 20-minute phone call in which he was pressed to talk about pig manure as a power source.
The Russian pair’s most famous scalps have been Elton John and Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Putin himself phoned Sir Elton after his trick call to spare the singer’s blushes.