MOSCOW, February 8 (RIA Novosti) – A Russian ministerial aide who kick-started a scandal over a leaked conversation about Ukraine between US diplomats has denied he was responsible for the leak.
“I was just monitoring 'the Internets' while my boss was off to a meeting with the Chinese leader,” Dmitry Loskutov wrote in English on his Twitter account on Friday.
Loskutov, an aide to Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, on Thursday tweeted a link to a recording posted on YouTube purporting to be a telephone exchange between US Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland and the US Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt.
The recording has re-ignited claims of US meddling in Ukraine’s unfolding political crisis and aroused irritation in European capitals over Nuland’s apparent use of a four-letter expletive while dismissively referring to the EU.
While refraining from definitively confirming the veracity of the recording, Nuland has issued an apology over her use of language.
Washington has angrily lashed out over the leak, arguing that only a few countries would have had the technical capability to intercept the call. A US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki strongly implied Russia was behind the leak and condmened Loskutov’s role in drawing public attention to the recording as a “new low in Russian tradecraft.”
The original uploader, who used the name of the title hero from Fyodor Dostoyevsky novel “The Idiot,” has not been identified.
Loskutov said on Twitter that he found the recording on a newsfeed of an unidentified friend.
He said he had no information about the Russian government’s involvement in the leak and told the Associated Press that Ukrainian thugs-for-hire were a more likely suspect.
Ukraine has been plunged into a deep political crisis since late November, when the government decided in a surprise move to cancel a planned deal to deepen economic and political ties with the EU.
Large anti-government protests in the capital, Kiev, have been largely peaceful, although there have also been sporadic outbreaks of violence between radical demonstrators and police.
A number of European and US politicians and officials have visited Ukraine over the past few weeks to meet with government representatives, as well to engage with, and sometimes voice support for, the opposition. That has drawn heated accusations from Moscow of Western interference in the former Soviet nation’s domestic affairs.