In this Tuesday, May 22, 2018, file photo, author Stephen King attends the 2018 PEN Literary Gala at the American Museum of Natural History in New York Credit: Evan Agostini/Invision/AP

Legendary Maine author Stephen King was apparently pranked by a Russian comedy duo that posed as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to get him on a video call.

The 15-minute video, which was posted to YouTube on Monday and began circulating in conservative media later in the week, featured King praising the man he thought was Zelenskyy for his leadership and the country’s war effort after it was invaded by Russia.

During one exchange, the pranksters ask King what he thinks of Stepan Bandera, an anti-communist Ukrainian nationalist hailed as a hero by some there. He collaborated with Nazi Germany for a time during World War II and led a group linked to massacres of Poles and Jews. After the war, he lived in West Germany before being assassinated by Russian spies in 1959.

King compared Bandera with American founding fathers George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, noting they owned slaves and did “many good things” for the country.

“On the whole, I think Bandera is a great man and you’re a great man and viva Ukraine,” he said to the Zelenskyy imitator.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has invoked “Nazism” in the Ukrainian military as a pretext for his invasion of Ukraine, which began in February, making the false claims that ethnic Russians face “genocide” in the neighboring country. He has used the term “Banderites” to describe those in Ukraine he has said have used human shields during the war.

King’s foundation did not immediately respond to a Wednesday request for comment on the video. But he looks to be the latest victim of the Russian prank duo “Vovan and Lexus,” who have become well known for luring public figures into embarrassing calls for nearly a decade.

“Harry Potter” author J.K. Rowling was hit in June with a similar Zelenskyy prank. In 2020, they tricked political figures Prince Harry and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau into thinking they were talking to Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg.

It has been noted that many of the victims of the hoaxes are critics of Putin and his government. The British government, for example, has suggested the comedy duo are state actors, which is something they have denied, according to The Guardian.

King is in that category as an outspoken defender of Ukraine. In February, Ukraine’s official Twitter account retweeted his support by saying “prevail over those langoliers for you” in a reference to the author’s 1990 novella.

The author has been a longtime donor to Democratic campaigns and causes in Maine and across the country. On Wednesday, the Republican National Committee released a statement saying its rival party’s officeholders should disavow King’s Bandera comments.

BDN writer Emily Burnham contributed to this report.

Michael Shepherd

Michael Shepherd joined the Bangor Daily News in 2015 after three years as a reporter at the Kennebec Journal. A Hallowell native who now lives in Augusta, he graduated from the University of Maine in...