Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Paet denied misleading information broadcast by the Russian media.
A recorded conversation between Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Paet and EU High Representative for Foreign Policy Catherine Ashton in which Minister Paet says that he was told that the snipers on Maidan were shooting at both sides has surfaced on the internet. Some Russian media have falsified it as evidence that the snipers were hired by the opposition.
Paet confirmed the authenticity of the recording, but he clarified at a press briefing on Wednesday that he was only recounting the version of the story which was told to him by activist Dr. Olga Bohomolets on February 25, BBC Russia reports.
In a telephone conversation with Ashton, Urmas Paet said that, according to Dr. Bohomolets, the police and demonstrators who were victims of sniper fire could have been, judging by the ‘signature,’ shot by the same snipers.
“She showed me some pictures, she said that the type of bullet was the snipers’ calling card, and that it is cause for concern that the new coalition does not want to investigate exactly what happened, making it look more and more like it was not Yanukovych [ex-president Viktor Yanukovych–Ed.] who was behind the snipers, but someone from the new coalition,” said Paet in the telephone conversation. He added that if the rumor is allowed to take on a life of its own, it could discredit the new coalition.
“I urge journalists to pay careful attention to this recording; I was only talking about the circulating versions of events in Ukraine,” the Estonian Foreign Minister told reporters in the briefing.
“I have not provided any interpretations. I have only expressed concern that if these rumors begin to take on lives of their own, it could hurt the situation in Ukraine,” said Paet.
The Estonian Foreign Minister explained that he simply recounted the rumors circulating on Maidan, and Bohomolets told reporters on Wednesday that, firstly, she did not tell Paet about bodies from both sides because she did not bodies of policemen.
Secondly, according to Bohomolets, she did not make any assumptions that the snipers were led by someone from the opposition.
“One can make such assumptions only if they are drawing on facts,” Bohomolets told the British newspaper Daily Telegraph.
The conversation between Paet and Ashton took place on February 26. The Estonian minister suggested that the recording was posted on the Internet now in order to discredit the new government of Ukraine.
Bohomolets told the Daily Telegraph that the new government asserts that the investigation is ongoing, but she does not know its particulars.
The recording of Ashton and Paet’s conversation was posted by YouTube user Expertise Centre of the Russian Federation on Wednesday. The clip was posted with title “Urmas Paet reveals shocking information that confirms the rumors that the snipers were hired by the leaders of Maidan.”
According to the captions, the conversation was overheard by the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU).
The clip was immediately discovered by Russian state TV channel Russia Today, which reported it under the headline “Ashton reported that Yanukovych was not involved in the killing of people on Maidan.”
Alexei Pushkov, Head of the Russian State Duma Committee on Foreign Affairs, wrote on his Twitter that Mr. Paet “said that the opposition was behind the snipers who fired on protesters.”
Then a few more pro-government Russian media outlets reported as fact that Paet said that, based on available evidence, the snipers were hired by someone from the opposition leadership.
This version of the ‘third party’ rumors has circulated in Kyiv since the first clashes in which firearms were used. However, there is so far no conclusive evidence supporting it. Video of shootings on Instytutska Street shows Ministry of Internal Affairs troops firing on demonstrators with automatic weapons.
Translated by Vitalii Usenko, edited by Robin Rohrback