Russia Caucasus Ukraine

Ukraine is also a communications and intelligence war

Sniper 20140226(BRUSSELS2) Western conversations about Ukraine continue to take place. Today, it is thus a telephone conversation, apparently held on February 27, between the Estonian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Urmas Paet and the High Representative of the EU, Catherine Ashton, which thus finds itself in the public square (published over there russian radio russia today). Officially, it was the Ukrainian services of the SBU – “loyalist” tendency (aka Yanukovych) – which obtained the recording. We can add, without fear of being too wrong, that the “brother” services of Russia are undoubtedly not foreign to these revelations.

Regular exchange of information

This conversation – as the High Representative regularly has – is very interesting not only in these most “crunchy” elements, distilled in the public square. But also because it reflects the feelings and the will of the moment, and also the way in which European Ministers of Foreign Affairs work among themselves. They exchange a lot of information, with each other, than they want to say. And we sense in the conversation, a certain complicity, the desire to move forward together, which is not always found in public attitudes... Listen here !

A lack of trust, security concerns, risk of disintegration of Ukraine

Lady Ashton asks the Estonian who returned from kyiv (February 27) for his impression: “ there is no trust, no one (Nb: in the opposition) wants to participate, find themselves in this coalition government, (…) They will not leave the streets until they see progress ( …) There are security problems, a risk of disintegration ". " Crimea » is already mentioned as the fear of an overflow in certain eastern cities by “ the russian army ».

The European response being developed

The High Representative of the EU confirms that she is well aware of the situation and is working hard on it. “ With Olli Rehn, we are working on a long-term financial package. » Etc. But she also explains the message she conveyed during a previous trip to opposition leaders: liberate the places, be responsible. “If you barricade the buildings, if it doesn’t work (…), we won’t be able to give you money. Because we need partners. And I told the opposition leaders to give a new sense of their role to this population, put flowers where people fell, you have to show what happened there. »

Sniper fire targeted both sides. Someone from the opposition behind these shots?

The crunchiest moment of the interview comes. The Estonian minister indicates his feeling of concern. “All the evidence shows that the people who were killed (were killed) by snipers. The police officers and the people in the streets (targeted), they were the same snipers killing these people on both sides. They showed me photos, from doctors, showing that they are the same practices, the same type of balls. It is very disturbing that now the new coalition does not want to investigate what exactly happened. So there is now a very big understanding that, behind these snipers, there was not Yanukovych but someone from the new coalition. (…) This also discredits, from the very beginning, the new coalition. » “We need to investigate this. I hadn't understood it like that. My God " answers C. Ashton. But also add “ We must be careful. We are asking them for big changes. Being an activist and a doctor is not the same as being a politician. (…)”

An authentic conversation

This conversation has been authenticated by the Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. " The recording of a telephone conversation between Foreign Minister Urmas Paet and High Representative Catherine Ashton that has been leaked online is authentic ". However, he rejects any interpretation of opposition involvement. “We reject the claim that Paet was giving an assessment of the opposition's involvement in the violence. »And the minister himself denounced these wiretappings as well as these revelations. “It is extremely regrettable that phone calls are being intercepted. The fact that this phone call has been leaked is not a coincidence.”

Comment: What do you think?

Always put in context

This intervention may seem surprising. But, when we interpret a conversation, we must always place it both in its context – a conversation between two political leaders who exchange their impressions at a given moment – ​​and in its moment. At that time, the reality was that there were doubts, questions: who were the shooters? Wasn't the opposition also somewhat responsible for the violence?

A fairly divided opinion

At the same time, I was in Athens at the meeting of defense ministers And with one of them (coming from an Eastern country and who cannot be suspected of not being on the side of opposition), we chatted over coffee. He told me that I had to be careful. “ Not everything is black or white. There are certainly groups that seek to cause trouble, extremist groups. » That was the feeling at that moment. And we could also have doubts.

A question about behavior

On the one hand, some police officers also seemed to have been targeted with firearms. This does not mean that it is the opponents who are the cause. On the contrary, perhaps. On the other hand, the sniper teams seemed very well organized, too well organized, not to come from groups already constituted, professional, mobile, trained in urban guerrilla actions, powerfully armed and accustomed to precision fire. Clearly, these could not be simple police officers or even very organized demonstrators. When we observe the images broadcast and collect the testimonies, we see clearly that these “snipers” had the objective of killing, cleaning, without giving too much quarter, coldly. And we observe, moreover, that well-formed teams of “provocateurs” had the mission of infiltrating the demonstrators, to discredit the opposition. It's a great classic...

Other interpretations

Because questioning does not mean certainty. Interpreting the facts directly as the Russian channel Russia Today or certain commentators such as Jacques Sapir do to immediately conclude that the snipers came from the opposition is risky. I will be more careful, very careful even. At the end of February, what we see is a corrupt power, at the end of its rope, which does not hesitate to use shock troops and the most extreme means in the face of an opposition which is stuck to its positions, does not seem to in a position to win, but remains determined to oppose. The Estonian minister appears to exonerate Yanukovych – at the time –. But it's a feeling of the moment - we all had doubts at that time about what had really happened -. This is not the final impression, with all the elements that we can have afterwards.

The flight of the former Ukrainian president does not really argue in favor of the thesis of an innocent man being fooled by the opposition. Be serious ! Was he the one who directly ordered the shooting? Or did he not let it happen? It is not impossible to think that the “hardliners”, elements within the power, also wanted to put an end to it, before the end of the Olympics (before a possible Russian takeover which could also mean the end of their power) , with the consent, more or less real, more or less tacit, of the then president.

Similar behaviors in the past

That there were elements among the demonstrators determined to fight, that seems certain. But that certain elements have also been infiltrated or manipulated by those in power, we must not refrain from thinking about it. Because, in past history, in all the “revolutions” which took place in the east in the zones under Soviet or Russian influence (Budapest 1956, Prague 1968, Warsaw 1980…), similar “revelations” attempted to destabilize those who wanted to overthrow an overly autocratic regime. The resemblance is too striking not to fall into the traps set by juicy “revelations”.

Who is behind these revelations?

Estonians are right to ask: why is this revelation coming now, when Yanukovych is on the run and trying to rehabilitate himself in the eyes of a majority of Ukrainians? And who is behind these revelations? Certainly the Russian services have an interest in stoking the fire and playing against each other, as they had tried during previous revelations, with Victoria Nuland's F… (read: When Victoria “fucks” Europe. Or Cow Friendship).

A communications and intelligence war

And it doesn't seem to be over... In the coming days, other conversations could filter into the press. Because the “phony war” that is happening in Crimea is also a “communication war”, a psychological war, a way of winning, or not, public opinion. The other lesson of this series of revelations is that many of the conversations that European diplomatic officials have are “listened to”. And not just by the NSA. This will force Europeans to be more careful (and therefore destabilize them) but also to review their procedures.

Europeans bugged, worrying

The conversations that European diplomatic officials have on their phones don't really seem secure. There is a big concern there that will have to be resolved. Indeed, instead of wasting their time checking whether leaks, which could not be more innocent, have taken place in the press or monitoring their agents, the European authorities would perhaps urgently need to review their security procedures. faced with real risks of destabilization.

(Nicolas Gros-Verheyde)

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).