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Minister falls victim to Russian propaganda

Minister of Education and Research Mailis Reps (Center).
Minister of Education and Research Mailis Reps (Center). Source: (Postimees/Scanpix)

Over the last weeks, the Estonian platform of Sputnik published two interviews with Minister of Education and Research Mailis Reps (Center). Interviews she never gave Sputnik, as Reps confirmed to daily Postimees. On the contrary, she had never even communicated with the agency.

Sputnik is an international news agency that belongs to Rossiya Segodnya, a news agency of the Russian government created by presidential executive order in 2013. Through Sputnik, the Russian government can influence directly how news are reported and perceived in 40 languages.

The first interview was published on Jan. 31. In it, Reps supposedly tells Sputnik about her perception of the Holocaust, and how Estonia’s politicians are making trouble among the local ethnic groups. Particular emphasis is given to Reps’ supposed opinion that the Holocaust was much worse than the deportation of Estonians to Siberia.

“I know that this ‘interview’ had a few Estonian authorities worried, and at the same time we were worried here in the ministry as well,” Reps said, adding that they had wondered where the story had come from, seeing as she had never talked to Sputnik.

Nine days later a second interview with Reps was published on Sputnik’s portal. This time it is a three-minute phone interview, in which Reps talks about planned changes in how Estonian is taught in Russian schools. The interview is clearly cut in several places, and there is not a single question by an interviewer.

According to Reps, this supposed interview is the result of a phone call she received at the Riigikogu. A man had called. “He said he was Maksim and that he was a journalist, and asked if I could send him our 60/40 Estonian language curriculum for the Russian schools,” Reps told Postimees. “I thought he was Maksim of PBK [Maksim Gussarov, a reporter with Channel One Russia’s Baltic program] and I told him that I didn’t have a curriculum to send him,” Reps said, adding that now she knew better, and that she shouldn’t have been so talkative, as the man had obviously been with Sputnik.

The call was recorded, cut, and published as a supposed interview with the minister.

Reps told Postimees that she was aware of the recommendations both of fellow politicians as well as the Estonian authorities not to talk to Sputnik.

Editor: Dario Cavegn

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