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27 Apr, 2022 17:01

Notorious pranksters snare chess official as he discusses Russian ban

The chess official claimed he initiated the ban on Russian star Sergey Karjakin
Notorious pranksters snare chess official as he discusses Russian ban

A pair of Russian pranksters have tricked FIDE Director General Emil Sutovsky into confessing that he instigated the current ban on Russian grandmaster Sergey Karjakin by the chess governing body and wants to see it extended.

Although FIDE has not prohibited Russian players from taking part in international competitions, Karjakin was hit with a six-month personal ban by FIDE in March after voicing his support for Russia's military operation in Ukraine. 

Karjakin called the ruling an "expected, but no less shameful decision by FIDE," although it appears that some of those with Soviet roots in FIDE think the ban was too light.

Born in Baku when Azerbaijan was still part of the USSR, Israeli citizen Sutovsky was goaded into confessing as much to infamous Russian pranksters Vovan and Lexus, who were pretending to be Ukraine Minister of Sports Vadim Gutzeit.

Furthermore, Sutovsky seemingly suggested that he was the instigator behind the process that saw Karjakin punished and Russians forced to perform under neutral status.

"I strongly support the imposition of sanctions," Sutovsky told Vovan and Lexus on their VIL show, in a conversation in Russian. 

"I was the first to make a proposal regarding Karjakin and the fact that Russian chess players cannot play under their own flag, but only under the FIDE flag.

"For me personally, as a person responsible for the entire World Championship, it is very important not to throw out the baby with the bathwater, so that worthy grandmasters who signed the letter against [the military special operation] do not suffer with Karjakin.

"The fact that he was [made to] endure only six months seems to me an excessively short period," Sutovsky went on.

"As the end of the period of suspension approaches, I will apply for reconsideration on behalf of the FIDE Council for an extension of the suspension," he vowed.

Threatening to quit if Karjakin is allowed to play, Sutovsky also dropped Russian FIDE president Arkady Dvorkovich in hot water by claiming that Dvorkovich "never once asked" Sutovsky to "save" his compatriot and hasn't "the slightest desire" to protect Karjakin.

Sutovsky is the latest in a long line of victims who have fallen prey to Vovan and Lexus.

Among their most high-profile catches is arguably Elton John, who they called with Vovan impersonating Russian President Vladimir Putin and Lexus acting as his translator to discuss gay rights in Russia.

After their chat, John even took to Instagram to congratulate Putin for having reached out to him but was later embarrassed when the president's press secretary Dmitry Peskov denied a conversation ever took place with the president.

Putin did however then call John and apologize on the behalf of the pranksters who he described as "harmless."

Elsewhere, others such as Prince Harry and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau have also been pranked as Vovan and Lexus pretended to be climate change activist Greta Thunberg and her father. 

More recently, British Defence Secretary Ben Wallace and Home Secretary Priti Patel were two of their biggest fish. 

To Wallace, Vovan and Lexus impersonated Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal and got him to admit that Britain "always wanted" Ukraine to join NATO but found that it wasn't "easy to get other members to agree." In their 10-minute call, Wallace also said he would back Ukraine's supposed nuclear ambitions.

In a longer 15-minute video call with Patel, the pranksters again posed as Shmyhal and got her to say that British citizens are "clearly" not scared of Ukrainian neo-Nazis with support for Ukraine's plight in the UK "very significant."

The scandal eventually saw the British Ministry of Defence order all the videos of the calls with the pranksters removed from YouTube as Vovan and Lexus, who also duped Harry Potter author JK Rowling into sharing a link for one of their Ukraine-spoof projects, were also banned from the streaming platform.

Due to this, the prank call with Sutovsky was primarily shared on Russian platform Rutube.