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Estonia Denies Spying on U.S. Officials

Prime minister slams story of an intelligence operation carried out by a Baltic country concerned by Trump’s ties with Russia.

17 February 2017

The Estonian prime minister has denied a U.S. news magazine’s stories alleging that his or another Baltic country gathered intelligence on people linked to the Trump administration and executives with the Trump Organization.

 

"I repeat: no, Estonia does not spy on its allies," Juri Ratas (pictured) said at a press conference yesterday, Estonian Public Broadcasting reports.

 

Newsweek reported Wednesday that an unnamed Baltic country has monitored phone calls and collected other kinds of information for several months, “out of concerns that Russia is seeking to manipulate its relationships with Trump administration officials as part of a long-term plan to destabilize the NATO alliance.”

 

"Such news is not true at all," Ratas said, adding that he had spoken about the report with the heads of Estonian intelligence services.

 

The same Baltic country also probed U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's relationship with his former business partner and personal friend Igor Sechin, the head of Rosneft, Russia's state controlled oil company, Newsweek says.

 

A January Newsweek story claimed the Estonian foreign intelligence service conducted or ordered surveillance last year when a Trump associate and a “pro-Putin member of the Russian parliament” met in Eastern Europe in a building maintained by a Russian Foreign Office department, Rossotrudnichestvo. 

 

Czech journalists recently claimed to have evidence that Donald Trump’s lawyer Michael Cohen met Kremlin representatives at the Rossotrudnichestvo office in Prague last summer. Cohen denied that he had ever been in Prague, and doubts about the claims increased when it emerged that an unrelated Michael Cohen born the same year had visited Prague around the time the alleged meetings took place.

 

At yesterday’s news conference Estonian Interior Minister Andres Anvelt also said the country did not gather intelligence on its allies.

 

He said Russia was engaged in various operations against Estonia and that Estonian intelligence had information about Russia’s interest in spreading disinformation and false news.

 

The chairman of the Estonian parliament’s foreign affairs committee, Marko Mihkelson said the claims made in this week’s Newsweek article appeared to be intentional disinformation, Estonian Public Broadcasting says.

 

Latvian and Lithuanian government officials have not yet commented on Newsweek's allegations.

 

  • In a recent interview with the German newspaper Die Welt, Estonian President Kersti Kaljulaid said she agreed with the Trump administration's view that NATO countries should increase defense spending. 

 

  • This view is not shared by European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker. Speaking yesterday on the sideline of the Munich Security Conference, he called for Europe not to bow to Washington’s demand that all NATO members spend at least 2 percent of GDP on defense, according to Reuters.

Compiled by Liga Rudzite


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