WASHINGTON — A phone call between the European Union’s foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and the Estonian foreign minister Urmas Paet has been leaked online, and features the pair questioning whether snipers who shot protesters in Kiev were in fact ordered by ousted president Viktor Yanukovych.
The nearly 11-minute call looks to have been first picked up by Kremlin-funded network Russia Today. In the description on the YouTube video, uploaded by an account under the name of Michael Bergman, it is attributed to “Officers of Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) loyal to the ousted President Viktor Yanukovich.”
In the call, which appears to have taken place after Paet’s visit to Ukraine on February 25, Paet and Ashton discuss concerns around the new coalition forming after Yanukovych’s ouster and discuss the shooting of protesters on the Maidan, the site of anti-government protests.
Paet says that someone named Olga — believed to be the head of the Maidan medical service, Olga Bogomolets — told him the snipers in Kiev were not ordered by Yanukovych.
“What was quite disturbing, this same Olga told that, well, all the evidence shows that people who were killed by snipers from both sides, among policemen and people from the streets, that they were the same snipers killing people from both sides,” Paet said, in English. “She also showed me some photos, she said that she is medical doctor, she can say it is the same handwriting, the same type of bullets, and it’s really disturbing that the new coalition, that they don’t want to investigate what exactly happened.”
“So there is a stronger and stronger understanding that behind snipers it was not Yanukovych, it was somebody from the new coalition,” Paet says.
“I think we do want to investigate. I didn’t pick that up, that’s interesting. Gosh,” Ashton says.
“If it starts now to live its own life very powerfully, that it already discredits from the very beginning this new coalition,” Paet says.
“They need to demand great change but they’ve got to let the Rada function,” Ashton says, referring to Ukraine’s parliament.
The Estonian foreign ministry confirmed the leak on Wednesday.
“We have no comment on leaked alleged phone conversations,” said Ashton’s spokesman Michael Mann. “The EU we has repeatedly called for independent investigation into the violence and killings.”
Paet also raises concerns about the new government in Kiev.
“My impression is that there is no trust in these politicians who will return now to the coalition, well people from Maidan and from civil society say they know everybody who will be in new government, all these guys have dirty past,” Paet said.
“The trust level is absolutely low, on the other hand all the security problems, the integrity problems, Crimea, all this stuff — Regions party was absolutely upset,” Paet said, referring to Yanukovych’s Party of Regions. “They say that, well, they accept this that now there will be new government and there will be extraordinary elections but there is enormous pressure against the members of parliament that there are uninvited visitors during the night to Party members,” Paet said.
The call leaked online one day after Russian president Vladimir Putin said during a press conference that the snipers may have been “provocateurs from an opposition party.” The head of the Duma’s foreign affairs committee, whose daughter works for Russia Today, sent a rare tweet in English saying “Estonia Foreign Minister said to Ashton snipers that were shooting at the protesters were hired not by Yanukovich, but by the opposition.”
“We found the video on this YouTube channel,” RT spokeswoman Anna Belkina told BuzzFeed in an email, linking to the “Michael Bergman” YouTube account. “We do not know if we were the first to publish it, as we do not monitor all other media this way.”
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