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Germany confirms bugging of Bundeswehr Ukraine war talks

Chancellor Olaf Scholz has pledged a quick probe into a Russian leak of secret talks about the Ukraine war. The German military has confirmed the talks were real, but couldn’t rule out that the recording had been edited.

Germany’s Defense Ministry has confirmed the authenticity of a recording of a confidential discussion between high-ranking Bundeswehr officers regarding the war in Ukraine that was leaked by Russian state media.

“According to our assessment, a conversation in the air force division was intercepted. We are currently unable to say for certain whether changes were made to the recorded or transcribed version that is circulating on social media,” said a spokeswoman for the ministry.

On Friday, The head of Russian state broadcaster RT, Margarita Simonyan, published what she said was an audio recording between German officers, including the chief of the Air Force, Lieutenant General Ingo Gerhartz.

Ukraine has urged Germany to deliver Taurus cruise missiles to help with its defense against Russia

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz described it as “a very serious matter.”

“It will now be investigated very carefully, very intensively, and very quickly,” Scholz said Saturday during a visit to Rome.

What else was on the audio?

As aired by Simonyan on Telegram, the audio includes a discussion about whether Taurus cruise missiles would be capable of destroying a bridge, seemingly a reference to the new bridge linking Russia-occupied Crimea to the Russian mainland over the Kerch Strait.

The recording was apparently made from a video conference between four Air Force officers discussing Russia’s war in Ukraine.

On the audio leak, they spoke about ways German officers could supply Ukrainians with targeting information without appearing to be directly involved in the conflict with Russia.

The clip also contains reference to the British having “a few people on the ground” in connection with the deployment of their Storm Shadow cruise missiles delivered to Ukraine. 

German newsmagazine Der Spiegel reported that the virtual meeting did not take place via a secure line, but via the Webex platform.

German lawmakers alarmed

“If this story turns out to be true, it would be a highly problematic incident,” Konstantin von Notz, the chairman of the Bundestag’s parliamentary oversight committee, told broadcast network Redaktionsnetzwerk Deutschland.

The Green party politician said it should be determined “whether this is a one-off incident or a structural safety problem.” 

Roderich Kiesewetter, of the center-right Christian Democratic Union and deputy chairman of the Bundestag’s parliamentary oversight committee, said it seemed Russia had leaked the conversation to put pressure Germany not to supply Taurus missiles to Ukraine.

“A number of other conversations will certainly have been intercepted and may be leaked at a later date for Russia’s benefit,” he told broadcaster ZDF. 

Scholz has so far refused to send Taurus missiles to Ukraine

Earlier this week, the chancellor said the missiles range and the likely need for assistance from German Bundeswehr troops was problematic and could be construed as direct or indirect participation in the war.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova demanded that Germany “promptly” provide an explanation and claimed the audio was evidence of a “hybrid war” the West was waging on Russia.  

Source: DW