June 3, 2023

WASHINGTON — Pranksters posing as the president of Ukraine tricked Jerome H. Powell, the chairman of the Federal Reserve, into a conversation about the US and the global economy in January, based on video clips broadcast on Russian state television and posted online placed.

The images show Mr. Powell answers an interviewer’s questions during a video call, apparently thinking he is talking to Ukraine’s leader Volodymyr Zelensky. The ruse appears to have been carried out by Vladimir Kuznetsov and Alexei Stolyarov, pranksters who are supporters of Russia’s President Vladimir V. Putin.

The clips – now circulating the internet – were previously reported by Bloomberg. They have Mr. Powell answer questions about central banking and inflation. His remarks seem to be in line with what he regularly makes in public.

A Fed spokesman said Mr. Powell took part in a conversation in January with someone who misrepresented himself as the Ukrainian president, noting that the discussion took place in the context of the central bank’s support for the Ukrainian people. The spokesperson notes that no sensitive or confidential information has been discussed.

The video appears to have been edited and the Fed said it could not confirm its accuracy. The case has been handed over to the police, the spokesman said.

The two men who carried out the prank have also fooled other world leaders, including Christine Lagarde, the president of the European Central Bank, and Angela Merkel, the former chancellor of Germany.

An ECB spokesman said Ms Lagarde had agreed to the meeting in good faith and expressed support for Ukraine and its people.

The Fed-related video was posted on Rutube, a Russian video hosting platform, and broadcast by Russian state television and news agencies. Mr. Kuznetsov and Mr. Stolyarov posted excerpts from the call on their social media page and dedicated a special episode of a show they hosted to it.

The clips show Mr. Powell discussing a number of challenges facing the US economy, including rapid inflation and the possibility of a recession. In the clips, Mr. Powell that an economic downturn is possible or even likely, but that it is necessary to cool the economy and curb price increases. That’s consistent with what the Fed chairman has said in testimonials and speeches.

Fed officials are now in their pre-meeting quiet period, during which officials avoid public speaking ahead of a rate decision. They will meet next week and announce a rate decision on May 3, after which Mr. Powell will hold a press conference.

Oleg Matsnev reported from Berlin.