TALLINN - Pro Patria Union MP and presidential hopeful Peeter Tulviste has found himself on the defensive after several of his comments were seized by the Belarusian press. His statements allegedly justify the blatantly undemocratic elections in Belarus. Reform Party Vice Chairman Meelis Atonen said Tulviste owed Parliament an explanation and, if quoted incorrectly, that he demand an apology and retraction from the Belarusian press.
The Kesknadal, the Center Party's mouthpiece, last week published an excerpt from the March 22 issue of the Belarus newspaper Krupski Vestnik that quotes Tulviste, an OSCE observer, during the recent presidential elections in Belarus.
"Do you know that I was able to visit many polling stations in your region? What I'm saying is that no serious violations were established 's the elections proceeded in accordance with generally accepted standards, no violations of international legal norms occurred anywhere," Krupski Vestnik quoted Tulviste as saying.
"This is not the first time that I've participated in political events like this, and what I'm saying is that in this given case everything is transparent, correct, and, let me repeat, without violation of human rights."
Tulviste, who was nominated as a presidential candidate by the nationalist opposition party Pro Patria Union, told the Baltic News Service his remarks had been distorted.
"As a matter of fact, what happened was that the newspaper asked me if we had seen any grave violations that day. I answered that it was still too early to draw any conclusions, and that we hadn't seen any grave violations at the polling stations as of now," Tulviste said.
Center Party MP Kullo Arjakas, another Estonian observer who went to Belarus as part of the OSCE team, said he believed the quote published in the Belarusian newspaper was correct.
"I observed the presidential elections in Belarus together with Tulviste. He gave that interview to the local newspaper in the Krupsk town museum. I was right by Peeter Tulviste at that time," Arjakas said, adding that he found no distortions in the published text.
Atonen said the incident was reflective of a more general problem that Estonian politicians faced when speaking to the foreign media.
"It was only lately that we had Mailis Reps, who said that everything was all right with ethnic policy in the Mari El [Republic of Russia]," Atonen said, recalling the scandal over remarks made in Russia by Center Party Education Minister Mailis Reps.
"Now Peeter Tulviste is complaining that he was quoted incorrectly in Belarus," Atonen said.
He added that people traveling to other countries as Estonia's official representatives should take extra caution when speaking with journalists.