WASHINGTON, July 25 (Reuters) - U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry optimistically discussed expanding American coal exports to Ukraine and other energy matters during a lengthy phone call this month with a Russian prankster who Perry thought was Ukraine's prime minister.
Perry actually was talking with comedians known in Russia for targeting celebrities and politicians with audacious stunts, Energy Department spokeswoman Shaylyn Hynes said in a written statement.
Pranksters Vladimir Krasnov and Alexei Stolyarov are sometimes called the "Jerky Boys of Russia," after an American duo who put out recordings of their prank phone calls in the 1990s. They have made faux calls to British singer Elton John, who thought he was speaking to Russian President Vladimir Putin, and others.
"These individuals are known for pranking high-level officials and celebrities, particularly those who are supportive of an agenda that is not in line with their governments. In this case, the energy security of Ukraine," Hynes said.
During the 22-minute call on July 19, Perry, whose department oversees the U.S. nuclear weapons program, discussed a range of topics in a business-like tone, including sanctions against Russia and helping Ukraine develop oil and gas.
U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry
U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry
Former Texas Governor Rick Perry is sworn in before testifying at a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing on his nomination to be Energy secretary on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., January 19, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
President-elect Donald Trump's Energy Secretary nominee, former Texas Governor Rick Perry, arrives for the inauguration ceremonies swearing in Donald Trump as the 45th president of the United States on the West front of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S., January 20, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
New Secretary of Energy Rick Perry embraces his wife Anita during during his swearing in ceremony at the Executive Office in Washington, U.S., March 2, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
New Secretary of Energy Rick Perry is sworn in by U.S. Vice President Mike Pence (R) as his wife Anita holds a bible during a ceremony at the Executive Office in Washington, U.S., March 2, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
U.S. President Donald Trump is surrounded by his cabinet, including Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Director Mick Mulvaney (L-R), Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Small Business Administration (SBA) Administrator Linda McMahon, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Ben Carson, Vice President Mike Pence, Energy Secretary Rick Perry and Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, as he signs an executive order entitled "Comprehensive Plan for Reorganizing the Executive Branch" in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, U.S. March 13, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
U.S. President Donald Trump's Energy Secretary nominee Rick Perry (2nd R) and his wife Anita speak with Defense Secretary nominee James Mattis (R) before the Inaugural Parade in Washington January 20, 2017. Donald Trump was sworn in as 45th President of the United States. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
Rick Perry listens to US Vice President Mike Pence speak as he waits to be sworn in as US Secretary of Energy during a swearing in ceremony in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building March 2, 2017 in Washington, DC. / AFP PHOTO / Brendan Smialowski (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
US Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) (L) and incoming US Secretary of Energy Rick Perry wait for a swearing in ceremony in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on March 2, 2017 in Washington, DC. / AFP PHOTO / Brendan Smialowski (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
Rick Perry, former governor of Texas and U.S. secretary of energy nominee for President Donald Trump, left, speaks with Jared Kushner, senior White House adviser, center right, as Ivanka, daughter of U.S. President Donald Trump, center left, stands before the start of a joint session of Congress in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2017. Trump will press Congress to carry out his priorities for replacing Obamacare, jump-starting the economy and bolstering the nations defenses in an address eagerly awaited by lawmakers, investors and the public who want greater clarity on his policy agenda. Photographer: Aaron P. Bernstein/Bloomberg via Getty Images
WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 28: Energy Department Secretary nominee Rick Perry (L) and Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary nominee Ben Carson arrive to a joint session of the U.S. Congress with U.S. President Donald Trump on February 28, 2017 in the House chamber of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC. Trump's first address to Congress is expected to focus on national security, tax and regulatory reform, the economy, and healthcare. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
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Perry said the Trump administration opposes Nord Stream 2, a Russian project to bring natural gas to Europe across the Baltic and that U.S. technology could help Ukraine develop gas.
"Giving Ukraine more options with some of our technology is, I think, in everyone's best interest with the exception of the Russians, but that's OK," he said.
Perry also discussed the Paris climate accord and coal exports on the call.
The call, first reported by E&E news, was recorded and posted online. (http://bit.ly/2eMg35v)
It happened about a month after Perry met with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and his delegation at the Energy Department.
President Donald Trump said last month that Washington plans to offer Ukraine more coal exports from the United States because the eastern European nation's industrial sector has difficulty securing coal from separatist-held regions.
It is unclear how the United States would bring more coal to Ukraine but Perry hinted on the call that the Commerce Department was working on it.
"The coal conversation at this particular point in time is with (Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross) and I full well suspect it will go forward," he said on the call.
News of the call came the same day the U.S. House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly to impose new sanctions on Russia. (Reporting by Timothy Gardner in Washington; Writing and additional reporting by Eric M. Johnson in Seattle; Editing by Bill Trott)