Germany probes possible wiretapping of secret Ukraine war talks

Published March 3, 2024
Kyiv wants Germany to provide it with Taurus missiles, which can reach targets up to 500 kilometres (300 miles) away. — AFP
Kyiv wants Germany to provide it with Taurus missiles, which can reach targets up to 500 kilometres (300 miles) away. — AFP

BERLIN: German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Saturday promised a full investigation after what appe­ared to be a recording of confidential army talks on the Ukraine war was posted on Russian social media, in a potentially huge embarrassment for Berlin.

The head of Russia’s state-backed RT channel, Margarita Simonyan, on Friday posted the 38-minute audio recording of what Scholz claimed were German army officers on Feb 19 discussing striking Crimea.

“What is being reported is a very serious matter and that is why it is now being investigated very carefully, very intensively and very quickly,” Scholz said on a visit to Rome.

In the recording, discussions can be heard on the possible use by Ukrainian forces of German-made Taurus missiles and their potential impact.

In an audio recording, German army officers can be heard discussing strikes on Crimea

Topics include aiming the missiles at targets such as a key bridge over the Kerch strait linking the Russian mainland to Crimea, which was annexed by Russia in 2014. The discussions also cover the use of missiles provided to Kyiv by France and Britain.

Experts consulted by Der Spiegel magazine said they believed the recording was authentic.

A defence ministry spokeswoman said it was investigating “whether communications in the air force sector were intercepted”.

‘Sworn enemies’

Kyiv has long been clamouring for Germany to provide it with Taurus missiles, which can reach targets up to 500kms away.

Scholz has so far refused to send the missiles, fearing that it would lead to an escalation of the conflict.

“If this story turns out to be true, it would be a highly problematic event,” Green party politician Konstantin von Notz told the RND broadcaster.

“The question arises as to whether this is a one-off incident or a structural safety problem,” he added.

Speaking at a diplomatic forum in Turkiye on Saturday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the recording indicates that Ukraine and its backers “do not want to change their course at all, and want to inflict a strategic defeat on Russia on the battlefield”.

Foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakh­arova demanded that Germany “promptly” provide explanations for the discussion.

“Attempts to avoid answering the questions will be regarded as an admission of guilt,” she said.

“Our age-old rivals — the Germans — have again turned into our sworn enemies,” former Russian president Dmitry Medvedev, now deputy head of the Security Council and the foreign ministry, wrote in a Telegram post.

Taurus missiles

The acquisition of German Taurus missiles would provide a massive boost for Ukraine amid the ongoing war.

France and Britain have supplied Kyiv with SCALP or Storm Shadow missiles, both of which have a range of about 250kms, but Scholz said last week Germany could not justify matching British and French moves in sending long-range missiles to Ukraine and supporting the weapon system’s deployment.

“This is a very long-range weapon, and what the British and French are doing in terms of targeting and supporting targeting cannot be done in Germany,” Scholz said, without specifying exactly what he meant.

Britain denied that it had any direct involvement in operating the missiles.

“Ukraine’s use of Storm Shadow and its targeting processes are the business of the Armed Forces of Ukraine,” a Ministry of Defence spokesperson said.

However, Roderich Kiesewetter from Germany’s opposition conservatives warned that further recordings may also be leaked.

Published in Dawn, March 3rd, 2024

Opinion

Editorial

Tough talks
Updated 16 Apr, 2024

Tough talks

The key to unlocking fresh IMF funds lies in convincing the lender that Pakistan is now ready to undertake real reforms.
Caught unawares
Updated 16 Apr, 2024

Caught unawares

The government must prioritise the upgrading of infrastructure to withstand extreme weather.
Going off track
16 Apr, 2024

Going off track

LIKE many other state-owned enterprises in the country, Pakistan Railways is unable to deliver, while haemorrhaging...
Iran’s counterstrike
Updated 15 Apr, 2024

Iran’s counterstrike

Israel, by attacking Iran’s diplomatic facilities and violating Syrian airspace, is largely responsible for this dangerous situation.
Opposition alliance
15 Apr, 2024

Opposition alliance

AFTER the customary Ramazan interlude, political activity has resumed as usual. A ‘grand’ opposition alliance ...
On the margins
15 Apr, 2024

On the margins

IT appears that we are bent upon taking the majoritarian path. Thus, the promise of respect and equality for the...