The senior US diplomat for Europe, former State Department spokesperson, Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland, has had to apologize after being caught allegedly saying “f*** the EU” over the European body’s policy towards embattled Ukraine. Her conversation was apparently bugged, and the US is suggesting that Russia may have had a hand in the intercept. In the conversation, it is believed that Ambassador Nuland was speaking to Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt, who represents the US to Ukraine.
In the four-minute conversation, the pair discuss their talks with Ukraine's three main opposition leaders - Vitaly Klitschko, Arseniy Yatseniuk and Oleh Tyahnybok - and their attempts to encourage coordination. The female speaker is heard to say that Klitschko, the former heavyweight boxing world champion, should not be in any new government. "I don't think it's a good idea." However, the voice says, "I think Yats [Arseniy Yatseniuk] is the guy who's got the economic experience."
It was a Dmitry Loskutov, an aide to Russian deputy prime minister Dmitry Rogozin, who was among those who first issued a tweet about the YouTube video, which is subtitled in Russian. Posted seven hours before the video became widely publicised on February 6, Loskutov suggested the conversation was “sort of controversial judgment from Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland speaking about the EU.”
The video features voices resembling those of the two US diplomats discussing their efforts to calm the crisis in Ukraine. A voice resembling Ambassador suggests that the EU's position should be ignored after she tells Pyatt that UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon will appoint Robert Serry, the former ambassador of the Netherlands to Ukraine, as UN representative to Ukraine. “That would be great I think to help glue this thing and have the UN glue it and you know, F*** the EU,” the voice reportedly says.
Speaking for the State Department, Jen Psaki said that the alleged intercept would be a “new low in Russian tradecraft.” The conversation was made available on YouTube. Psaki reportedly said that he could not confirm whether Nuland’s voice was indeed recorded on the call. However, she did say “I didn't say it was inauthentic.” The State functionary claimed that Nuland “has been in contact with her EU counterparts and of course has apologized for these reported comments.”
“It is no secret that Ambassador Pyatt and Assistant Secretary Nuland have been working with the government of Ukraine, with the opposition, with business and civil society leaders to support their efforts,” Ms Psaki continued. “It shouldn't be a surprise that at any points there have been discussions about recent events and offers and what is happening on the ground.”
She went on to say, “Of course these things are being discussed. It doesn't change the fact that it's up to the people on the ground. It is up to the people of Ukraine to determine what the path forward it.”
Speaking for the Obama administration, White House spokesman Jay Carney did not comment on the source of the audio or the conversation, arguing that he would not discuss private conversations. Russia has been blamed for intervening in the Ukraine crisis, given the close relations of Russian Premier Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich. Carney said, “I would say that since the video was first noted and tweeted out by the Russian government, I think it says something about Russia's role.”
Germany' issued a statement that Chancellor Angela Merkel considers Ambassador Nuland’s remarks about the EU and its efforts in Ukraine are "totally unacceptable.” Speaking for the German government on February 7, Christiane Wirtz said Merkel supports the work EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton has done to find a solution to the crisis in Ukraine. "The chancellor finds these remarks totally unacceptable and wants to emphasise that Mrs Ashton is doing an outstanding job." Relations between the Obama administration and the German government have been strained over the last year because of revelations that Merkel’s cellphone conversations may have been intercepted by the US National Security Agency.