Rutube channel of "Vovan and Lexus": "You will soon learn the details of these pranks on our show"
Photo: RuTube / DER SPIEGEL
On Tuesday, Berlin's Governing Mayor Franziska Giffey (SPD) spoke of possible "caricatural backgrounds" when it came to the motive for the alleged Vitali Klitschko's call to her.
What sounded like a sloppy twist on "terrorist backgrounds" might turn out to be accurate.
Giffey and at least four other mayors of large European cities had held video calls with the alleged Vitali Klitschko in the past few weeks.
But even if the person looked and sounded like the mayor of Kyiv, he wasn't.
Giffey's team initially said that it was "apparently" a deepfake, a computer-generated Klitschko.
(You can read more about this here.) Meanwhile, the Senate Chancellery also thinks other explanations are conceivable.
Now there are two possible perpetrators: In an email to SPIEGEL, Vladimir Kuznetsov and Alexei Stolyarow, alias "Vovan and Lexus", indicated that they were behind the fake video conversations with Giffey and the other mayors.
When asked if they were responsible, the Russian comedy duo replied, "You'll find out the details of these pranks on our show soon."
It referred to its channel on Rutube, a Russian video platform modeled on YouTube.
The two comedians were also considered early on by the German security authorities as a possible candidate for the fake calls.
No evidence so far
Their participation has not yet been proven.
So far, the two have not provided any evidence for their claim, not even when explicitly asked.
They told the ARD political magazine "Contrasts" that they would not want to reveal in detail how they brought about the fake Klitschko.
"All I can say is that it wasn't a deepfake," Stolyarov said.
He and Kuznetsov have framed politicians and celebrities a number of times, including George W. Bush, Justin Trudeau and Boris Johnson.
In doing so, they often move along the lines of Russian state propaganda and try to elicit insidious sentences from those affected.
Just a few weeks ago, it became clear how helpful the Kremlin apparently thinks the two are: Russia's Foreign Ministry officially awarded the two a prize - a secure phone - and praised them for "having captured the phones of so many politicians and world-famous personalities".
The duo once took responsibility for an incident that was quickly described as a deepfake by the Western media, but was ultimately much less spectacular: just over a year ago, Stolyarov repeatedly posed as Leonid Volkov, chief of staff of , in zoom calls with European MPs Alexei Navalny.
According to his own statements, he had simply disguised himself and put on make-up, that was enough.
Most recently, the comedians presented themselves to Harry Potter author JK Rowling as Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
Among other things, the false Selenskyj asked Rowling whether he could play a role in the next »Harry Potter« film – because before his political career, the Ukrainian president was an actor.
Rowling called the video phone prank in the middle of the war "distasteful."