Ian McKellen duped into ‘call with President Zelensky’ by Russian cons

The actor’s activism and high profile saw him targeted for a prank (Picture: Dave Benett/WireImage)

Sir Ian McKellen has revealed he was catfished by a pair of Russian comedians, seeking to take advantage of him, who invited him to participate in ‘a private discussion’ with President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Calling it a ‘dirty trick’, the esteemed actor explained how he had checked with contacts in Ukraine over the legitimacy of the invitation, who encouraged him to follow through, clearly believing the approach to be genuine.

Sir Ian, 83, explained that the call began, with him ‘apparently chatting’ to President Zelensky, before he realised it was, in fact, a prank.

Taking to Twitter on Wednesday evening, the two-time Oscar nominee wrote: ‘I’m not a politician, so I was surprised some weeks ago to receive a message that appeared to come from the Ukrainian Embassy in London, inviting me to participate in “a private discussion with President Zelensky.”

‘I checked with a couple of contacts in Ukraine who encouraged me to take the call. At the appointed time, I found myself chatting, apparently, with the President of Ukraine.’

‘As it soon turned out, it was not Zelensky or any Ukrainian official, but one of a pair of Russians who call themselves comedians.

Sir Ian explained what had happened to his followers on Twitter (Picture: Mike Marsland/WireImage)

‘I understand they’re popular in Russia, which is surprising because they’re jokes aren’t funny,’ the X-Men star added.

He continued: ‘I played along with things they suggested but was frankly bewildered that they seemed to think I might be in a position to provide substantial aid to Ukraine.’

Sir Ian then explained that once he ‘realised it was all just a dirty trick’ he ‘declined to cooperate further’, before signing off the typed-up letter document, dated and written from Edinburgh – where he is performing in Hamlet as part of the Fringe – on Wednesday.

In the video, seen by Metro.co.uk, the actor – who wore a blue top and yellow scarf in a show of solidarity with the country whose leader he thought he was speaking to – spoke to one of the con-artists about supporting LGBTQ rights in Ukraine.

He also asked about how ‘an individual in the United Kingdom’ could help the country against the Russian invasion as the comics sought to take advantage of his activism.

The star also generously offered the fake president his prop sword from the Lord of the Rings films to present to him ‘with his love’ on a visit to Kyiv.

The star is currently in Edinburgh for the Festival, where he is playing Hamlet (pictured here in a separate Theatre Royal Windsor production in 2021) (Picture: Robbie Jack/Corbis/Getty)

Fans sent support to Sir Ian in the comments, calling the act ‘appalling’ and ‘wretched’.

‘Dignified as ever Ian,’ another responded, praising the actor’s decision to get out in front of the video potentially being shared widely online.

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