Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell Pranked By Russians

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By Natalie Sherman, Business reporter, New York

The head of the US central bank appears to be the latest personality to fall prey to a pair of Russian pranksters.

A video call with Federal Reserve chairman Jerome Powell was shared on Russian television from the duo, whose prior targets include Prince Harry and former German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

The Fed said Mr Powell had spoken to someone in January he thought was Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

It said it had referred the matter to law enforcement.

“It was a friendly conversation and took place in a context of our standing in support of the Ukrainian people in this challenging time,” a spokesperson said. “No sensitive or confidential information was discussed.”

Comedians Vladimir Krasnov and Alexei Stolyarov – known as Vovan and Lexus – claimed credit for the stunt.

They previously claimed to have pranked the likes of Elton John, Polish President Andrzej Duda, the head of the European Central Bank, Christine Lagarde, and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Harry ‘duped by Russian pranksters phone call’ Trudeau falls for prank call from ‘Greta Thunberg’ As foreign secretary in 2018, Boris Johnson had a conversation credited to the pair, who are supporters of Vladimir Putin.

The UK government said then it believed the Kremlin was behind the call.

The Fed said the video with Mr Powell appeared to have been edited and it could not confirm its accuracy.

In one of the clips shared on Russian television, Mr Powell praised Russia’s central bank chief Elvira Nabiullina for managing the Russian economy amid Western sanctions, according to the BBC Monitoring service.

Other video now circulating on the internet shows Mr Powell describing a sharp slowdown in growth in the US, following the bank’s efforts to rein in price rises.

“We would tell you that a recession is almost as likely as very slow growth,” he said of expectations for 2023. “I think that is partly because of us having raised rates quite a bit but this is what it takes to get inflation down.”

News of the call set social media abuzz in the business world, where commentary from Mr Powell often moves financial markets.

“The Federal Reserve can’t get a break these days,” economist Mohamed A El-Erian wrote, while sharing the story which was first reported by Bloomberg.

“Embarrassing moment for the Fed,” chimed in Jesse Cohen, global markets analyst at Investing.com.

Source: BBC News