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Downing Street blames Russia for hoax calls to senior UK ministers

LONDON — Russia was behind hoax calls made to U.K. Defense Secretary Ben Wallace and Home Secretary Priti Patel, Downing Street said on Monday.

Wallace said last week he had been called by a man pretending to be Ukraine’s prime minister, but ended the call after he became suspicious when the “imposter” posed “several misleading questions.” Patel said she had received a similar call earlier last week.

At a briefing for journalists on Monday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s spokesman told reporters the Russian state “was responsible for the hoax telephone calls made to U.K. ministers last week.”

He said a similar unsuccessful attempt was made to contact Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries.

“This is standard practice for Russian information operations, and disinformation is a tactic straight from the Kremlin playbook to try and distract from the illegal activities in Ukraine and the human rights abuses being committed there,” the spokesman added. “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.”

An inquiry into the specific incidents is already underway.

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