U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry offered some insights into his foreign relations skills with the Ukrainian prime minister on July 19, except he wasn't talking to the Ukrainian prime minister, he was talking to Vladimir "Vovan" Krasnov and Alexei "Lexus" Stolyarov -- two pranksters known as the "Jerky Boys of Russia."
The "Jerky Boys" take their name from an American duo who sold millions of prank call recordings in the 1990s. Like their predecessors in the U.S., the Russian pranksters also publish their recordings by posting them online.
Shaylyn Hynes, spokeswoman for the U.S. Department of Energy, confirmed to Bloomberg that Perry had been the pranksters' latest victim.
"These individuals are known for pranking high-level officials and celebrities, particularly those who are supportive of an agenda that is not in line with their governments," Haynes wrote in an email. "In this case, the energy security of Ukraine."
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The 22-minute call touched on several topics including Ukrainian oil and gas, the proposed Baltic Sea pipeline and U.S. coal exports.
In the call, Perry confirmed that the Trump administration is opposed to Nord Stream 2, the pipeline that would allow Russian natural gas to be transported to Europe across the Baltic Sea, and could instead use U.S. technology to help the Ukraine develop its own oil and gas reserves. He mentioned a future meeting where U.S. business executives plan to talk about expanding energy sourcing in the Ukraine.
“What we have seen in Texas is the great increase of productivity, particularly in shale gas because of hydraulic fracturing and the directional drilling,” Perry said.
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According to Reuters, Perry also hinted that the U.S. Department of Commerce was working on a plan to bring coal to the Ukraine. The pranksters asked if the Ukraine could get a special deal.
"Negotiation is always possible," Perry replied.
Perry also spoke on President Donald Trump's decision to withdraw from the Paris climate accord.
“I hope that stepping away from the Paris accord will not have any negative impact with our relationship with the Ukraine,” said Perry to what he believed to be the Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman. “We tried to divorce the politics from this and really just let our record stand, one that I’m very proud of.”
The pranksters, who had been speaking to Perry in Russian through an interpreter, went so far as to propose to Perry that Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko had invented a biofuel made of alcohol and pig manure.
Perry did not reject the idea but said he'd like more information about the "scientific development," The Washington Post reports.
Perry is far from the first well-known victim of Krasnov and Stolyarov. According to The Washington Post, high-ranking people they claim to have punked include Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona, Democratic Rep. Maxine Waters of California, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and singer Sir Elton John.
The phone call had reportedly been arranged a few weeks after Perry met with Groysman and his delegation on June 20.
An audio recording (below) has been posted to YouTube, but the Russian dialogue has not yet been translated into English.