05.07.2022, Nordrhein-Westfalen, Königswinter: Christine Lambrecht (SPD), Bundesministerin der Verteidigung, spricht bei einer Veranstaltung zum 20-jährigen Jubiläum des Rechtsstatus der OCCAR (Organisation Conjointe de Coopération en matière d'Armement). Foto: Marius Becker/dpa +++ dpa-Bildfunk +++

The Russian comedians behind the Klitschko fake calls have admitted to being paid by Rutube and thus by Gazprom. In an interview with the ARD political magazine “Contrasts”, one of the comedians, Alexey Stolyarov, said: “We work for Rutube and are Rutube ambassadors. So we get our money from there.” Rutube is the Russian version of the American video platform YouTube and is a subsidiary of Gazprom Media, which belongs to the state-owned Gazprom group.

The comedians aka Wowan and Lexus had presented European politicians with fake calls in the past few weeks, pretending they were talking to Kiev Mayor Vitali Klitschko. Among others, Berlin’s mayor Franziska Giffey had made such a phone call, as well as the EU interior commissioner Ylva Johansson.

Jānis Sārts, director of the NATO Center of Excellence for Strategic Communications, told ARD: “This means that they clearly receive state funds for what they do.” For Putin’s autocratic regime, humor is a “real threat”, which is why it is better for him “To control humor,” Sārts told ARD. (mlk)