July 7, 2022 | ARD Kontraste

Vovan and Lexus: Pranksters or political actors?

ISD analyst Julia Smirnova spoke to leading German investigative program ARD Kontraste about Russian ‘comedians’ Vovan and Lexus and their relation with the Russian state.

The ‘pranksters’ have recently misled several European politicians with fake video calls, pretending that they were the Mayor of Kyiv, Vitaly Klichko. One of the politicians targeted, the Mayor of Berlin, Franziska Giffey, spoke of “modern warfare” against allies of Ukraine during the program.

Vovan and Lexus run a show on video-hosting platform Rutube, a Russian equivalent of YouTube. The platform belongs to Gazprom-Media, a media company largely owned by the state energy corporation Gazprom.

“They sell themselves as harmless jokers, but their content is highly political, their ‘pranks’ are very much in the Kremlin’s interests”, says Julia. She stresses that this mixture of entertainment and propaganda plays a special role in the overall media ecosystem.

“It allows Russian propaganda to reach a different target audience than just state television, state news,” Julia said.