Sen. Bernie Sanders became the victim of a pair of Russian pranksters posing as teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg and her father, culminating with the Democratic presidential candidate being asked to “become a sleeper agent of the KGB.”
Vladimir Kuznetsov and Alexey Stolyarov, who are known for trolling high-profile figures, spoke with Sanders — or at least a man saying he was Sanders — on the phone for what the Democratic-Socialist believed was a discussion about the potential for Thunberg to publicly endorse him for President in 2020.
However, the conversation soon turned into a joke about communism at Sanders’ expense.
Sanders’ campaign and reps for Thunberg did not immediately respond to TheWrap’s request for comment.
Kuznetsov and Stolyarov posted a recording of the phone call to YouTube along with a crudely-drawn animated video.
In the recording, an unidentified woman’s voice claimed to be Greta, while Stolyarov played the voice of her father, Svante. The pair offered support for Sanders.
“If you wanted to make a statement in support of my candidacy and the program we have outlined for climate change, I would be very, very appreciative,” a voice identifying himself as Sanders said, suggesting they do an event together during her next visit to the U.S.
Then came the first bit that should have tipped Sanders off to the prankster-nature of the call.
“Greta” said she had plans to record a rap song expressing her support for Sanders along with her “friends,” Billie Eilish and rapper Kanye West. She informed Sanders that in order to make the video “successful,” it will need to be filled with “expensive cars and girls,” and he would need to “wear gold jewelry and chains.”
“Sanders,” laughing nervously and sounding a bit uncomfortable, thanked “Greta” for her work in activism and tried to say goodbye. But the pranksters keep him on the phone by asking for advice about an upcoming visit to Russia.
“Sanders” answers earnestly.
“Here’s what I think: Russia and Putin have been very bad, as far as I know, on climate change,” he said. “I think what you don’t want to do is simply walk in there and get used… before you go there, you can do the research but say you are going to Russia because Russia is one of the important economies in the world, and it is absolutely imperative that Russian leadership acknowledge the reality of climate change and pledge to do everything that it can to transform its own energy system and work with other countries.”
And the conversation made a turn for the absurd.
“Greta” tells “Sanders” that he was secretly recruited by the KGB during a 1988 visit to Russia.
“Excuse me? Is this what you believe?” Sanders asked.
“Yes. You become a sleeper agent of the KGB… now, it’s time to wake up and fulfill your mission,” she said. “Become president of the United States, build communism in the United States, and work for Russia. I’ll tell you the code phrase and you’ll remember.”
“Sanders” then appeared to hang up.
In a statement to the Associated Press, Kuznetsov said the prank was part of the comedians’ “Stars Save the Earth” project in which they call high-profile politicians and celebrities posing as Thunberg.
“Many laugh at Bernie Sanders (and say) that he is a KGB agent and wants to build communism in the U.S. Since he calls himself a democratic socialist, we decided to play up this topic — the topic of Sanders being a recruited Russian agent,” Kuznetsov said.
“Everyone, from presidents to street cleaners, are ready to talk to Greta Thunberg,” Stolyarov added.
Stolyarov also clarified to the AP that their goal was not to influence the U.S. presidential election, and that they don’t expect negative consequences to come of the prank. insisted the pranksters didn’t want to influence the presidential race in the U.S. in any way. In previous years, the two have been accused of having ties to the Kremlin — a notion they have repeatedly denied.
“It’s not illegal, and we’re well known in the U.S.,” he said.
Watch the prank video above.