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21st Mar 2022

Russia to blame for hoax calls made to Priti Patel and Ben Wallace, says No 10

Charlie Herbert

Number 10 said it was ‘standard practice’

The Kremlin was responsible for hoax calls to Ben Wallace and Priti Patel, Number 10 has confirmed.

In a statement on Monday, Downing Street said it blamed the Russian state for the calls to the defence secretary and home secretary.

The callers got through to both ministers, with the caller to Wallace pretending to be the prime minister of Ukraine, Denys Shmyhal.

An attempt was also made to get through to Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries, according to reports in The Guardian.

Boris Johnson’s spokesman said: “The Russian state was responsible for the hoax telephone calls made to UK ministers last week.”

They continued: “This is standard practice for Russian information operations and disinformation and 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.”

Wallace had publicly admitted to being targeted by the hoax calls, but says he did not disclose any significant information to the caller.

He added that he ended the call after becoming suspicious of “several misleading questions” being asked by the caller.

The Secretary of State for Defence labelled the call a “desperate attempt.”

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