No10 blasts Russia for Ukrainian PM hoax calls to Priti Patel and Ben Wallace

VLADIMIR Putin’s cyber unit orchestrated a series of hoax calls to ministers last week in a bid to embarrass Britain, No10 revealed.

Spooks have revealed Russian spies arranged the calls last week to Defence Sec Ben Wallace and Home Sec Priti Patel and are now braced for “doctored” clips of the pair to emerge.

Downing Street said Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries was also targeted by Russian spies – but did not take the call.

No10 said the hoax video calls last week were an attempt by Putin to distract from military problems in Ukraine.

The PM's official spokesman said: "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."

Senior Government sources fear the Russians may attempt to doctor footage obtained in the calls in an attempt to embarrass the UK.

The Defence Secretary publicly acknowledged he had been targeted shortly after his call on Thursday in an attempt to get ahead of any attempt by Moscow to circulate footage from it.

He also initiated a cross-Whitehall review to tighten up security procedures after the Russian agent called claiming to be the Ukrainian prime minister, Denys Shmyhal.

The spy managed to con Whitehall officials to speak to the ministers on Microsoft Teams calls.

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Mr Wallace revealed he spoke to the imposter but hung up after becoming suspicious within minutes.

Last week he said the imposter "posed several misleading questions and after becoming suspicious I terminated the call."

He added: "No amount of Russian disinformation, distortion and dirty tricks can distract from Russia’s human rights abuses and illegal invasion of Ukraine. A desperate attempt."

And the scare deepened after the Home Secretary revealed she was also targeted.

Ms Patel said: “This also happened to me earlier this week.

"Pathetic attempt at such difficult times to divide us. We stand with Ukraine”

The security breach happened after an email purportedly sent from an aide at the Ukrainian embassy was sent to a Whitehall department and then forwarded to the Ministry of Defence.

The imposter thanked Mr Wallace for the UK’s support before trying to squeeze out insider info on British policy and urging the Defence Sec to shout slogans, prompting him to end the call.

MoD sources are now bracing for the Kremlin to stitch together Mr Wallace’s remarks to humiliate him.

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