5 Mar 2014

British EU chief hears Ukraine shooting claim in bugged call

In a leaked phone call, believed to be between EU foreign policy chief Cathy Ashton and Estonia’s foreign minister, it is claimed Ukraine protesters were shot on the orders of their own leaders.

Above: YouTube video posted by Russia Today purportedly reveals a recent discussion between Cathy Ashton and Urmas Paet

In the conversation the speakers discuss a suspicion that snipers who shot protesters in Kiev’s Independence Square, at the height of the Maidan protests, had been hired by opposition leaders, not the Ukrainian government of ousted President Yanukovych.

It is reported that Ukraine‘s special services, friendly to ousted President Viktor Yanukovych, bugged the conversation between Baroness Ashton and a man believed to be Urmas Paet, the Estonian foreign minister. It is thought the conversation took place around the 26 February, shortly after Yanukovych fled the country.

There is now stronger and stronger understanding that behind the snipers it was not Yanukovych, but it was somebody from the new coalition. Urmas Paet

In the recording, the male voice says he has been told of evidence suggesting that one group was responsible for shooting both riot police and protesters alike, and that there is a “stronger and stronger understanding” that one of the Maidan leaders organised the shootings.

It has previously been reported that government gunmen were responsible for the majority of 88 protester deaths in the uprising.

The man alleged to be Mr Paet describes how he spoke to “Olga” – a person whom the female voice on the tape, believed to be Baroness Ashton, seems to know. He describes Olga as a doctors’ leader in Ukraine. It is understood that Olga refers to Dr Olga Bogomolets.

Mr Paet says that Olga told him that “all evidence shows that the people 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.”

He continues: “And it’s really disturbing that now the new coalition [government], they don’t want to investigate what exactly happened, so that there is now stronger and stronger understanding that behind the snipers it was not Yanukovych, but it was somebody from the new coalition.”

Baroness Ashton apparently responds: “I think they do want to investigate, and I didn’t know… pick that up – gosh.”

Mr Paet says the evidence “discredits from the very beginning” Ukraine’s new leadership.

State-controlled television network Russia Today, which has been criticised in the west for airing Russian propaganda around the Ukrainian crisis, posted the recording on the day that western leaders were meeting in Paris with the new Ukrainian coalition government.

Michael Mann, Baroness Ashton’s spokesperson, told Channel 4 News: “We do not comment on alleged phone conversations.”

Ms Bogomolets said she had not told Mr Paet that policemen and protesters had been killed in the same manner. “Myself I saw only protesters. I do not know the type of wounds suffered by military people,” she told The Telegraph. “I have no access to those people.”

She said finding out who was responsible for the deaths could only be determined by “fact”, and that she had been assured by the new Ukrainian government that an investigation was underway.

Ukraine’s propaganda war

RT has criticised western media outlets, saying that a “western media frenzy” is underway. The view of what is happening in Crimea differs greatly between Russia and the west.

One report on RT supported Vladimir Putin‘s statement that the Russian troops in Crimea are “local defence groups” – the images they showed differed greatly from the men, in Russian uniform but without insignia, seen at the Belbek airbase on Tuesday.

Russian 'local defence groups'

(Above: local defence groups at Belbek airbase, and local defence groups as seen on RT)

A video that went viral this week also showed an RT anchor in the US rebelling against her television channel, showing her distaste for the way Russia was behaving in Crimea.

Western media, it has been argued, has turned a blind eye to the extreme right wing elements in Kiev’s protests.

Television shutdown

There are other worrying signs that Russia and Russian media are deploying underhand tactics in order to boost the propaganda in Crimea and wider Ukraine.

Two days before Russian forces began taking control of airports and bases on the Crimea peninsula, two Molotov cocktails were thrown through the window of Black Sea TV.

Alexandra Kvitko, editor-in-chief of Black Sea TV, the only independent television station in Crimea, said the attack was a “warning to stop”. “We continued,” she said.

On Monday, with Russian troops in control of the peninsula, Black Sea TV was cut off from broadcasting. The station was still reaching cable and satellite viewers, but on Tuesday power was cut off to the station.

Ms Kvitko says the channel was cut off because it did not broadcast the Russian propaganda which is being pumped into the region.

“There is propaganda, on the Russian channels and government channel of Crimea, which says that ultra-nationalists are coming to force everyone to speak Ukrainian,” she said.

“It is under firm control of the local authorities and engaged in propaganda. It says the army troops are not occupiers but protecting us, although it is not clear protecting whom from whom.

“It says the Crimean authorities were elected properly, Yanukovych is still president. We broadcast that the authorities in Kiev are legitimate and that the Crimean authorities were not elected legitimately.”

A Jamestown Foundation report from 2010, which very accurately predicted the events that have taken place in Crimea, also expands on propaganda in the region. It says that the Black Sea Fleet, located in Sevastopol, has “special propaganda units”.

And pictures tweeted on Wednesday seemed to suggest that the same woman was appearing, posing as different Ukrainian citizens, in news coverage.

The EuroMaidan Twitter account was one of those that posted the picture, and said that the woman had appeared as a “soldier’s mother,” a Kiev resident, a Kharkiv resident, an Odessa resident and an anti-Maidan activist.

An actress reportedly shown in a large number of Ukraine reports.