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IOC says it was tricked by Russian prank callers amid tension ahead of Paris Olympics

International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach speaks at the opening of the executive board meeting of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), at the Olympic House, in Lausanne, Switzerland, Tuesday, March 19, 2024. (Laurent Gillieron/Keystone via AP)

LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) — The International Olympic Committee believes its president Thomas Bach fell prey to a prank telephone call amid rising tensions with Russia over restrictions on its athletes competing at the Paris Games.

The IOC on Thursday detailed a call from people claiming to be from the African Union — a similar trick to one played by Russian callers on Italian Premier Giorgia Meloni in September.

In Meloni’s call, she acknowledged “fatigue” with the war in Ukraine believing she was talking with officials of the African Union.

The IOC said it had calls with “a person pretending to be the chair of the African Union Commission” wanting to discuss a statement on the politicization of sport.

The IOC and Bach have publicly criticized the Russian state including over plans to organize an international multi-sports event in September, weeks after the Paris Olympics close.

Russian athletes who pass vetting to compete in Paris also will not take part in the opening ceremony parade of boats on the River Seine, the IOC decided this week.

“There appears to have been a new incident in the Russian disinformation and defamation campaign against the International Olympic Committee and its president,” the Olympic body said in a statement.

“Fake calls purporting to be from the African Union Commission appear to have been made by the very same group that has already attacked a number of global political leaders and other high-ranking personalities in the same way,” the IOC said.

Russian pranksters Vladimir Kuznetsov and Alexei Stolyarov, known as Vovan and Lexus, also tricked the president of Poland, Andrzej Duda, in November 2022.

Duda believed he was talking to France’s President Emmanuel Macron.

Russia is on track to have about 35 athletes qualify for the Paris Olympics — about 10% of its usual team for a Summer Games.

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AP Olympics: https://apnews.com/hub/2024-paris-olympic-games