Russian Pranksters Trick Fed Chief

But it doesn't appear Jerome Powell said anything unusual to callers posing as Volodymyr Zelensky
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 27, 2023 2:35 PM CDT
Fed Chief Powell Duped by Russian Pranksters
Federal Reserve Board Chair Jerome Powell speaks during a news conference at the Federal Reserve Wednesday, March 22, 2023, in Washington.   (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

The Fed chief's words can move markets, which makes Russian pranksters' latest victim especially notable. A spokeswoman for Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell has confirmed that he was tricked into talking with two Russians who have been fooling world leaders and other big names for years. Powell thought he was speaking to Ukraine leader Volodymyr Zelensky when they contacted him back in January, reports Bloomberg. “It was a friendly conversation and took place in a context of our standing in support of the Ukrainian people in this challenging time," said Powell's spokeswoman. "No sensitive or confidential information was discussed."

The pranksters, Vladimir Kuznetsov and Alexei Stolyarov, have been posting video of the conversation with Powell, and clips have been picked up by Russian state television. However, in broad terms, Powell doesn't seem to have said anything in the private conversation that he hasn't said publicly, per the Wall Street Journal. One interesting part, however: He appeared to praise Elvira Nabiullina, leader of Russia's central bank, for doing a particularly skillful job with Russia's economy despite an onslaught of world sanctions.

Both the New York Times and New York magazine report that the clips of Powell circulating on social media appear to have been edited. The Fed spokeswoman said that matter has been referred to law enforcement, without elaborating. Still, "if he’d been caught saying something contrary to his public statements, or offering a more crude assessment of the world economy or U.S. sanctions, maybe this would be a bigger problem for him," writes Kevin Dugan at New York. "The callers, however, don’t appear to have been smart enough to pull that off." (More Jerome Powell stories.)

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