Ukrainians pranked at fake election rally

Fake election rally in Kiev, February 2019 Image copyright 1+1 TV/Utkin TV/YouTube
Image caption Those who turned up in Kiev were unaware they were being broadcast on the internet

A Ukrainian prankster thought it would be a laugh to see how many people would turn up for a fake election rally on the promise of cash, and was surprised by the scale of the response.

Oleksiy Utkin used social media to offer 1,000 hryvnyas (£28; $37) of "easy money" to anyone willing to turn out in freezing conditions for three hours in support of Serhiy Filatov's bid to become president of Ukraine.

They would get a bit more if they brought a friend, 1+1 TV reports.

But the catch was that there was no candidate Filatov.

More than 200 people turned up on Kiev's popular Andriyivskyy Uzviz street, chanting pro-Filatov slogans on cue, unaware they they were being broadcast on the internet via Mr Uktin's web camera - and equally unaware that they were not going to be paid for their trouble.

Potemkin steps

In the Black Sea port city of Odessa, a smaller crowd gathered at the statue of the Duc de Richlieu above the steps made famous in Eisenstein's 1925 film Battleship Potemkin.

Local reporters quizzed some of the Filatovites, who seemed unconcerned to discover that their candidate had not even registered for the presidential race, 1+1 added.

Image copyright 1+1 TV/YouTube
Image caption Oleksiy Utkin had "no inkling more than 200 would turn up"

Oleksiy Utkin was bemused by the response.

"We thought about 20 people would come along, and had no inkling that in Kiev, for example, more than 200 would turn up," he told 1+1.

"No matter how absurd the situation was, these people swallowed the 1,000 hryvnyas and waited to see what happened next."

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The channel's cub reporter Halyna Petryshak went among the crowd in Kiev to ask what they thought of their candidate.

"I'm for Filatov, or Frolov, or whoever he is, as long as they pay up," one person told her.

Another anonymous interviewee was more positive about the presidential hopeful. "He's a great guy!" he declared.

The crowds dispersed without incident as night fell and no money appeared, so Oleksiy Utkin decided it was time to end the Filatov campaign.

He rounded off the prank by announcing online that Serhiy Filatov had fallen down a drain and died, so the second round of rallies would be replaced by a wake.

He received some commiserations on social media.

Image copyright 1+1 TV/Utkin TV/YouTube
Image caption Odessa's Duc de Richelieu attracted fewer Filatovites

Reporting by Martin Morgan

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