Leaked comments allegedly made by a US State Department official have revealed an apparent rift with the EU over how to handle the political crisis in Ukraine, with the US diplomat saying at one point: “F**k the EU.”
The diplomat allegedly heard in the clip – Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Victoria Nuland – is heard discussing strategies for resolving the political crisis in Ukraine with US Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt.
Nuland refers to getting the United Nations involved in negotiating a solution in Kiev.
“So that would be great, I think, to help glue this thing, and have the UN help glue it, and you know ... F**k the EU,” she said in the recording.
“Oh, exactly,” Pyatt responded. “And I think we’ve got to do something to make it stick together because you can be pretty sure that if it does start to gain altitude, the Russians will be working behind the scenes to try to torpedo it.”
Nuland has since apologised to her EU counterparts for the comments.
Leaked comments by US State Department official Victoria Nuland
'New low for Russia'
An angry US State Department blamed Russia for allegedly bugging its diplomats' phones.
"Certainly we think this is a new low in Russian tradecraft," US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.
US accusations that Russia helped publicise the taped conversation have further threatened Washington’s already tense relationship with Moscow. The US has been attempting to defuse the situation since the audio clip, which was posted to YouTube on Tuesday, gained widespread circulation on Thursday.
The date of the conversation was not specified but the events it describes took place at the end of January.
A diplomatic source said the audio clip was publicised on Twitter by Dmitry Loskutov, an aide to Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin.
Posted anonymously, the first audio clip was entitled “Puppets of Maidan”, aiming to portray opposition leaders as the stooges of the US diplomats.
“Maidan,” the Ukrainian word for “square”, is often used to refer to the whole protest movement, which started in Kiev’s central Independence Square in November.
US denies meddling in Kiev
The leaked conversation appeared designed to embarrass the US while bolstering accusations – from Russia, among others – that the Ukrainian opposition is being manipulated by Washington, an allegation that the US strenuously disputes.
Nuland is also heard weighing in on the make-up of the next Ukrainian government.
She is heard telling Ambassador Pyatt that she doesn’t think Vitaly Klitschko, the boxer-turned-politician who is a main opposition leader, should have a role in a new government.
“So I don’t think Klitsch (Klitschko) should go into the government,” she said. “I don’t think it’s necessary. I don’t think it’s a good idea.”
She also comments on possible future roles for the two other main protest leaders, Ukraine's former economy minister Arseny Yatseniuk and Oleh Tyahnybok, the far-right nationalist opposition leader.
“I think [Yatseniuk] is the guy who’s got the economic experience, the governing experience. What he needs is [Klitschko] and [Tyahnybok] on the outside. He needs to be talking to them four times a week,” Nuland said in the recording.
Psaki denied that Washington was trying to meddle or engineer a particular outcome in Kiev.
“Absolutely not,” she said. “It should be no surprise that US officials talk about issues around the world. Of course we do. That’s what diplomats do.”
‘No comment’ from the EU
The leaked audio is an ironic turnabout of sorts for the United States, which apparently has snooped on the leaders of allied nations according to classified documents made public by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden.
A second recording, reportedly a conversation between two EU officials, was posted the same day from the same YouTube account.
In it Helga Schmid, deputy to EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, is heard complaining about US criticism that the Europeans are not supporting sanctions on Ukrainian individuals in response to violence against anti-government protests.
“It’s very annoying that the Americans are going around criticising the EU and saying we are too soft,” Schmid tells Jan Tombinski, the EU ambassador to Ukraine.
A spokeswoman for Ashton said the EU would not comment on a “leaked alleged” conversation.
(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS)
Date created : 2014-02-07