Vocal liberal and world-famous horror novelist Stephen King appears to be the latest victim of prolific Russian pranksters Vovan and Lexus, who pretended to be Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky during a video call with King that was posted online.

The Press Herald has not been able to verify the 15-minute video, but it is credited to Vovan and Lexus, whose real names are Vladimir Kuznetsov (Vovan) and Aleksei Stolyarov (Lexus). Since at least 2014 the two have duped an array of politicians and celebrities, including former President George W. Bush, Vice President Kamala Harris, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., Prince Harry, Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling and singer Sir Elton John. There doesn’t seem to be any clear pattern to the people they call except that they are all of significant renown.

The video, which appears to be edited and was originally posted to the social media platform Telegram, shows King sitting in a wood-paneled room wearing a Ukraine baseball cap. He tells the person on the other end that he’s at home in Maine, comments on the beautiful weather and asks how the weather is in Ukraine.

Leaning against a wall behind King is a doll of the clown Pennywise, the main character in King’s horror novel “It.” In the video, King tells the fake Zelensky that it is “a pleasure and honor to meet him,” and that he would love to go to Ukraine. King and the fake Zelensky discuss King’s novels, which he stopped publishing in Russia after the invasion. King has condemned the invasion and called Zelensky heroic on social media.

From the beginning, the video is fishy. The faceless voice claiming to be Zelensky does not sound like the real Zelensky, whose voice has been broadcast frequently across the world in the months since Russia began its invasion of Ukraine. And as time goes on the conversation becomes increasingly odd. The Zelensky impersonator, it is not clear whether it is Vovan, Lexus or someone else entirely, says it is a dream of his to act in a movie based on one of King’s books and refers to Pennywise, an evil clown that preys on children, as a hero. He also not so subtly asks King to come to Ukraine and fight as a soldier.

King, who did not respond to a request for an interview Wednesday, does not appear to realize during the video that he is speaking to an impersonator rather than Zelensky. However, he is notably put off by some of the prankster’s comments, including the impersonator’s statement that Pennywise is his favorite hero. King almost seems to spit out his drink when he hears this.


Right-wing media quickly picked up the story and focused on the part of the conversation when King praised Ukrainian nationalist and Nazi collaborator, Stepan Bandera, after being baited by Vovan and Lexus. The fake Zelensky defended and praised Bandera as a national hero.

“He was in the second world war and he fighted against Soviet Union but yeah he had some crimes but it’s not so big crimes. It’s of course accidentally crimes against Jews, but it’s important to keep him opposed to Putin and he is (used as) propaganda,” the fake Zelensky said.

He then asked King’s opinion of Bandera.

“You can always find things about people to pull them down,” King responded. “Washington and Jefferson were slave owners, but that doesn’t mean they didn’t do many good things for the United States of America. There are always people who have flaws. We’re human, you know there are things we do that are bad choices and then there are things we do that are great choices, so on the whole I think Bandera is a great man and you’re a great man and viva Ukraine.”

Bandera fought for Ukraine’s independence from the Soviet Union throughout his life and is regarded by some as a symbol of Ukrainian freedom. In Russia, Bandera is regarded as a villain and his followers are considered to be Nazis. In his 2022 Victory Day speech, Vladimir Putin specifically cited threats from Bandera followers as a reason for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“There was every indication that a clash with neo-Nazis and Banderites backed by the United States and their minions was unavoidable,” he said.

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