Estonian Minister of Education and Research Mailis Reps (Center) has declined to provide a direct answer to a question from BNS regarding why she denied having given an interview to Russian propaganda channel Sputnik.
"As regards Sputnik, our policy and principles have not changed and we do not intend to change them — we do not deal with that channel," the minister told BNS via spokespeople on Tuesday. "It is regrettable that Sputnik has received this kind of attention now."
Russian pro-Kremlin media outlet Sputnik published a video on Monday of an interview Reps gave to a Sputnik journalist after the Estonian minister had previously stated that she had no idea where certain statements on the subject of the Holocaust and Soviet mass deportations attributed to here were taken from and denied having spoken to a Sputnik reporter.
"I have not given Sputnik those interviews!" Reps told Estonian daily Postimees in remarks published on Monday in reference to two interviews published by Sputnik's Estonian portal in recent weeks. One of the interviews was a radio interview on Russian-language education in Estonia; the other was a written interview on the Holocaust.
In the first interview, published by Sputnik on Jan. 31, Reps told the channel about her feelings toward the Holocaust and how local politicians were playing nations against each other in Estonia. One view she expressed during the interview was that she believed that the Holocaust was much worse than the deportations in Estonia as the latter only served political goals while the former was an attempt at the systematic eradication of all Jews.
Speaking to Postimees, Reps claimed that she had said nothing of the sort. "I know that this 'interview' worried some Estonian agencies, however it also worried all of us at the ministry in terms of where it is from in a situation where I have not spoken to Sputnik," she said.
Reps: 'I had no idea who she was'
Reps called a crisis meeting at the ministry to determine how the Russian propaganda channel could have obtained such a text. "I racked my brains over this for a day and a half," she recalled. The ministry eventually concluded that the information was from Remembrance Day on Jan. 27, when Reps visited Tallinn Jewish SChool and gave an interview to a community paper.
"A young woman who looked like she was from Armenia or Azerbaijan stood next to us with a voice recorder during our conversation; I suppose she is the author of that piece," Reps said. "I had no idea who she was as she was not wearing a Sputnik badge."
The Estonian minister asserted that claims that she gave an interview to Sputnik were fabricated as the latter must have passed off her conversation with the Jewish community newspaper as its own interview.
Reps also said that she believed that the two news items connected to her were meant to portray how the Center Party's rise to power has caused attitudes toward Sputnik to shift in Estonia. "They have not shifted," she stressed. "We simply must not believe the nonsense they are publishing."
On Monday afternoon, however, Sputnik published a video of the interview clearly showing a Sputnik journalist properly introducing herself to Reps, who then spoke on the subject of the Holocaust and the Soviet deportations. The video showed the interview as recorded on the sidelines of a commemoration event at Rahumäe Jewish Cemetery in Tallinn in late January.
MEP Yana Toom, a prominent politician of the Center Party, advised Reps on Tuesday to offer the public an apology.
"I find that Mailis Reps is stuck in the old stereotype which suggests that it is permissible for a politican to tell one story to Russians and another to Estonians," Toom told BNS.
Editor: Aili Vahtla