JK Rowling falls victim to ‘distasteful’ prank by Russians impersonating Ukraine’s Zelensky

·3-min read

JK Rowling became the victim of a “distasteful” prank by Russian imposters who convinced the Harry Potter author that she was speaking to Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky on Zoom.

The eastern European nations have been embroiled in war for the past four months, since Russia's president Vladimir Putin ordered a “strategic military operation” into Ukraine, trying aggressively to capture strategically important cities, including the capital Kyiv.

The fighting has resulted in the deaths of thousands of Ukrainian civilians and soldiers, with BBC News reporting that number is as high as 200 troops daily.

The video of Russian duo Vovan and Lexus speaking to Rowling as the Ukrainian president over an audio-only Zoom call was first discovered by The Rowling Library on Wednesday (23 June). It appears that Rowling, who kept her video on, didn’t realise she was being recorded.

During the 12-minute call, which grows increasingly uncomfortable, the Zelensky impersonators asked Rowling about imposing sanctions on Russian actor Aleksandr Kuznetsov, who appeared in the most recent Fantastic Beasts movie as Helmut.

While taking notes, Rowling replied: “Fantastic Beasts has been a very interesting experience. I’ll certainly talk to people and see what we can do.”

Next, Vovan and Lexus informed Rowling that Harry Potter’s lightning bolt scar resembles the symbol used by Russians on their military vehicles, asking her whether it could be changed to the Ukrainian trident instead.

“I will look at that. It might be good for me to do something with that myself on social media, because I think that will get into the newspapers,” she replied in the video.

Over the prank call, they told Rowling they were writing “Avada Kedavra” (the killing curse Voldemort uses against Harry Potter in the books) on Ukrainian missiles, enquired whether Dumbeldore was really gay and who he slept with, and also asked about Boris Johnson’s gender.

The prank was up when the duo turned on their camera to introduce “The Order of the Ukrainian Phoenix” only to reveal a group of people, wearing T-shirts that read “Only Putin!” in Russian.

A spokesperson for Rowling slammed the “distasteful” prank call in a statement toThe Hollywood Reporter.

They said: “JK Rowling was approached to talk about her extensive charitable work in Ukraine, supporting children and families who have been affected by the current conflict in the region. The video, which has been edited, is a distorted representation of the conversation.”

JK Rowling was reportedly targeted by the pranksters over her support for Ukraine (Getty Images)
JK Rowling was reportedly targeted by the pranksters over her support for Ukraine (Getty Images)

There is speculation Rowling was targeted by the duo – believed to be Russian state actors – over her support for Ukraine.

Earlier this year, Rowling announced she would match donations up to £1m after her Lumos Foundation launched an emergency appeal to aid children trapped in orphanages in Ukraine.

At one point in the video, the Russian comedy actors asked Rowling to “clarify where you are sending the money that Lumos has collected”, adding that “we want to buy a lot of weapons and missiles with your money to destroy Russian troops”.

“I hope you’re all for that,” they continued, still as Zelensky, prompting Rowling to reply: “We’ll look after the kids but I really want Ukraine to have all of the arms it needs.”

In March, YouTube pulled video clips of Vovan and Lexus’s hoax calls with defence secretary Ben Wallace and home secretary Priti Patel.

Later, the tech giant blocked the account vovan222pranks, which published the clips, as part of its investigation into “influence operations linked to Russia” after days of pressure to block the clips.

Vovan and Lexus’s other high profile prank victims include past and present US politicians, including current US vice-president Kamala Harris and former president George W Bush, Sir Elton John, Billie Eilish, and Prince Harry.

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