An imposter posing as Ukraine's prime minister tricked his way into a video call with the UK's defence secretary in a suspected Russian ploy. Ben Wallace ordered an immediate inquiry into the security breach on Thursday.
During the hoax call Wallace engaged for about 10 minutes with the man, who appeared to have gone through a lot of trouble to look like the real Ukrainian premier, Denys Shmyhal, a defence source said. A Ukrainian flag had been placed behind the imposter as part of the ruse.
The video call was set up after an email, purportedly from an aide at the Ukrainian embassy in London, was sent to a government department and then forwarded to the Ministry of Defence.
Wallace was apparently asked about whether the UK would send warships to the Black Sea, and if Ukraine should get nuclear weapons. The defence secretary was also apparently asked about the prospect of Ukraine dropping its ambition to join NATO and becoming a "neutral" state.
The defence source said Mr Wallace "was asked leading questions to encourage inappropriate comments" but he "didn't say anything that was not factual or appropriate". But defence sources say they are concerned that there may be an attempt to distort or edit Mr Wallace's answers before he terminated the call. It is not clear how the imposter managed to trick MoD officials that he was the real Ukrainian prime minister.
It is not the first time British ministers have been the victims of a hoax call. In May 2018 Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who was foreign minister at the time, talked about international relations with a hoax caller who pretended to be the Armenian prime minister.