/ 2 March 2024

German army probes possible wiretap of Ukraine war talks

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Rescuers work at the site of a heavily damaged multi-storey apartment building, following a Russian drone attack in Odesa, on March 2, 2024. (Photo by Oleksandr GIMANOV / AFP)

The German defence ministry on Saturday said it was checking whether a confidential videoconference on the Ukraine war had been wiretapped after a recording was posted on Russian social media.

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

“We are investigating whether communications in the air force sector were intercepted,” a spokeswoman for the defence ministry told AFP.

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

Other topics include aiming the missiles at targets such as a key bridge linking Russian-occupied Crimea to the Russian mainland over the Kerch strait.

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

Kyiv has long been clamouring for Germany to provide it with Taurus missiles, which can reach targets up to 500 kilometres (about 300 miles) away.

German Chancellor Olaf 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.

Roderich Kiesewetter, from the opposition conservatives, warned that further recordings may also be leaked. 

“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. 

It can be assumed “that the conversation was deliberately leaked by Russia at this point in time with a specific intention”, namely “to prevent Taurus delivery by Germany”, he said.

According to Der Spiegel, the videoconference was held not on a secret internal army network but on the WebEx platform.

© Agence France-Presse