US Secretary of State John Kerry claimed that the United States has audio recordings that show Russian is running an espionage network in the Ukraine with the intention of fomenting unrest.
The Daily Beast reported on Tuesday that it had obtained recordings of Kerry making the comments during a closed-door meeting of the Trilateral Commission in Washington last week.
The Trilateral Commission says it is a non-government organization that aims to foster closer cooperation among the core industrialized areas of Japan, Europe, and North America to promote shared leadership responsibilities in the wider international system.
“Intel is producing taped conversations of intelligence operatives taking their orders from Moscow and everybody can tell the difference in the accents, in the idioms, in the language,” Kerry said. “We know exactly who’s giving those orders, we know where they are coming from.”
Although he stopped short of saying which Russian officials he believed were heard in the recordings, Kerry had no doubts about their activities in strife-torn Ukraine and Crimea.
“It’s not an accident that you have some of the same people identified who were in Crimea and in Georgia and who are now in east Ukraine,” he said during the private Friday meeting. “This is insulting to everybody’s intelligence, let alone to our notions about how we ought to be behaving in the 21st century. It’s thuggism, it’s rogue state-ism. It’s the worst order of behavior.”
The report the tapes also indicate that US surveillance forces have succeeded in monitoring Russian communications after earlier indications that they were failing to do so.
Both the State Department and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence declined to comment on the report, the Daily Beast reported.
On Saturday Kerry spoke on the phone with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and “expressed continued concern that Russia’s provocative troop movements on Ukraine’s border, its support for separatists and its inflammatory rhetoric are undermining stability, security and unity in Ukraine,” a senior State Department official said.
Kerry’s comments came as the Group of Seven top economies and the European Union signaled that they would step up economic pressure on Moscow early next week amid fears Russia was preparing an invasion of eastern Ukraine.
In February 2014 violent protests led to a revolution in Ukraine that saw the installation of an interim government quickly followed by a Russian move to seize control of the Crimea region.
AFP contributed to this report.