UK slams Russian pranksters over Boris Johnson ‘Armenia’ call

Britain’s Foreign Office on Thursday criticized “childish” Russian pranksters who phoned Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson. (AFP)
Updated 24 May 2018
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UK slams Russian pranksters over Boris Johnson ‘Armenia’ call

LONDON: Britain’s Foreign Office on Thursday criticized “childish” Russian pranksters who phoned Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson posing as the leader of Armenia.
The Guardian newspaper said that Johnson was called by Alexei Stolyarov and Vladimir Kuznetsov, known as Lexus and Vovan.
One pretended to be new Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian, and the newspaper said that Johnson spoke to them for 18 minutes, discussing topics including the poisoning of ex-spy Sergei Skripal.
A recording of the call, said to have taken place last week, was posted on YouTube.
In the recording, Johnson says Britain is “almost 100 percent sure” President Vladimir Putin’s Kremlin ordered the attack on Skripal and his daughter Yulia. Moscow denies involvement in the incident, which has sparked a crisis in UK-Russia relations.
Johnson is also heard lamenting the poor state of UK relations with Russia, saying Moscow seems “unable to resist malign activity of one kind or another.”
The Foreign Office said Johnson “realized it was a hoax, and ended the call. We checked it out and knew immediately it was a prank call.”
“The use of chemical weapons in Salisbury and Syria and recent events in Armenia are serious matters,” it said in a statement. “These childish actions show the lack of seriousness of the caller and those behind him.”
Prime Minister Theresa May’s office said “obviously this shouldn’t have happened,” and announced there would be a government investigation into how the hoaxers got through to Johnson.
Britain suspects the comedy duo have backing from the Kremlin.
Stolyarov and Kuznetsov, who have fooled high-profile victims around the world, have denied links to Russia’s security services. In 2015, they phoned Elton John pretending to be Russian President Vladimir Putin, who had criticized the leader.


Banksy ‘snow’ pollution mural sold for over $130,000

Updated 18 January 2019
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Banksy ‘snow’ pollution mural sold for over $130,000

  • The ‘snow pollution’ mural appeared in the town of Swansea Bay, home to one of the biggest steelworks in the world
  • The buyer will lend the mural to Port Talbot in hopes it would attract international artists to the area

LONDON: A mural by elusive British street artist Banksy depicting a child enjoying falling snow that is in fact pollution from a burning bin has been sold for over $130,000 to a British art dealer.
From one side, the “Season’s Greetings” mural on a concrete block garage in Wales shows a small boy with his tongue out to catch snow that, when viewed from another side, turns out to be ash from an industrial bin.
“I bought it and it cost me a six-figure sum,” John Brandler of Brandler Galleries, told Reuters by telephone.
“I am lending it to Port Talbot for a minimum of two or three years. I want to use it as a center for an art hub that would bring in internationally famous artists to Port Talbot.”
The mural appeared last month in the town on the edge of Swansea Bay, home to one of the biggest steelworks in the world.
Brandler, 63, said the entire mural — on the corner of a garage — had to be moved in one piece. He declined to give a specific price for the piece.
When asked how he could afford such luxuries, he said: “I am an art dealer. I own several Banksies, I also own (John) Constable, (Thomas) Gainsborough, (Joseph Mallord William) Turner, I’ve got (urban artist) Pure Evil — I’ve got all sorts of art.”
“My hobby is my business. The last time I went to work was when I was 18,” Brandler said.
Banksy, who keeps his real name private, has become the most famous street artist in the world by poking fun at the excesses of modern capitalism and lampooning hollow icons, slogans and opinions.
Previous works include “Mobile Lovers” which shows an embrace between lovers who stare over each other’s shoulders at their mobile phones and an abrupt warning near Canary Wharf in London that reads “Sorry! The lifestyle you ordered is currently out of stock.”