Russian pranksters dupe US Republican senator in hoax call
"Your YPG Kurdish problem is a big problem," Graham told the callers according to a report by CNN, adding that the pranksters have suspected ties to Russian intelligence.
Also read: Turkish forces kill seven Syrian civilians as push into Kurdish-held territory continues
A spokesperson from Graham’s office said that the South Carolina Republican spoke with Russian pranksters Alexey Stolyarov and Vladimir Kuznetsov in a conversation he thought was with Hulusi Akar, the Turkish Defence Minister.
"We have been successful in stopping many efforts to prank Senator Graham and the office, but this one slipped through the cracks," Graham’s spokesman Kevin Bishop said. "They got him."
According to an audio of the call provided to CNN by Politico, Graham calls the Kurds a "threat" to Turkey – contradicting his recent statements criticising President Donald Trump's decision to pull American troops out of the way of a Turkish offensive in Syria that put the Kurds - allies of Washington - in harm’s way.
|The Turkish offensive against the Kurds
began three days ago. [Getty]
"I told President Trump that Obama made a huge mistake in relying on the YPG Kurds," Graham continued.
"Everything I worried about has come true, and now we have to make sure Turkey is protected from this threat in Syria. I'm sympathetic to the YPG problem, and so is the President, quite frankly."
In a second phone call a few days later, Graham delivered a message from Trump that he wants a "better relationship with Turkey."
Turkey's offensive has sparked international outrage, raising fears of a new humanitarian crisis in the region and concerns that thousands of militants from the Islamic State group could use the offensive as an opportunity to escape.
The operation in northern Syria began on Thursday with the aim of creating a 150km long and 25km deep "safe zone" on the other side of the Turkish border, currently occupied by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces.
This would provide Turkey with a buffer zone and allow for the repatriation of the country's 3 million Syrian refugees, Ankara claims.
Turkish bombing has hit towns in northern Syria, while a ground offensive by Syrian allies have so far seen 12 Syrian border villages captured.
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