Ukraine war live updates: Berlin accuses Russia of 'information war' in first reaction to Russian leak of German military call

Full Moon rises over Russian Foreign Ministry building in Moscow, Russia on July 3, 2023. 

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Russia’s Foreign Ministry has summoned the German ambassador, after the leak of an audio recording of German military officials discussing Ukraine and the possible targeting of Russian infrastructure in occupied Ukraine.

Germany’s ambassador to Moscow, Alexander Lambsdorff, was summoned to the Russian Foreign Ministry on Monday “in connection with a conversation between German officers regarding the attacks on the Crimean Bridge,” news agency Tass reported, citing an unnamed source.

The summons comes after Russian media leaked a 38-minute recording in which senior German officers discussed the possibility of sending long-range missiles to Ukraine, as well as attacking the Crimean Bridge that links the Russian mainland with annexed peninsula Crimea. 

The officers purportedly discussed the extent to which Taurus missiles were capable of destroying the Crimean Bridge, as well as the details of the preparation of the attack.

Germany confirmed the call was real but said it couldn’t tell whether it had been edited. Chancellor Olaf Scholz has demanded an investigation into the leaking of the call, which Der Spiegel magazine said was held on the WebEx platform rather than a secure internal army network. On Sunday, Germany’s defense minister accused Russia of waging an “information war” against it.

— Holly Ellyatt

The window of opportunity to help Ukraine is “slowly closing”, a British lawmaker and former chair of the country’s parliamentary defense committee said Monday as he commented on the furore over the leak of a German military meeting.

“The window to support Ukraine is slowly closing and we need to give them the military equipment the need and that includes those [German-made] Taurus missiles,” Tobias Ellwood told the BBC’s Today program Monday.

A Taurus long-range air-to-surface missile.

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Ellwood was asked to comment on the Russia media’s publication last Friday of a 38-minute recording of a call in which German officers were heard discussing weapons for Ukraine. In the recording, German military officials are heard discussing the possible delivery of Taurus cruise missiles to Kyiv, which Chancellor Olaf Scholz has publicly so far firmly rejected.

They also discussed the training of Ukrainian soldiers, and possible military targets such as the bridge over the Kerch Strait that links Russia to annexed peninsula Crimea.

Germany’s Defense Minister Boris Pistorius responded Sunday, accusing Russia of conducting an “information war” and “hybrid disinformation attack” aimed at creating divisions within the country. Russia denies spreading false or misleading information.

When asked about the leak, Conservative Party lawmaker Tobias Ellwood said it raised questions over security protocol in Germany, and said it revealed tensions between senior German military and the German chancellor when it comes to the sending of long-range Taurus missiles to Ukraine.

“Scholz seems to believe that selling peace to his domestic audience will help his political standing but in reality this means, selling out to Russia.”

Ellwood refused to comment on the apparent accidental leaking of British military secrets in the German phone call, in which German officers said the U.K. had troops “on the ground” in Ukraine. Britain already trains Ukrainian troops and supplies weaponry.

— Holly Ellyatt

German Defence minister Boris Pistorius (2ndR) and Ukraine’s Defence Minister Rustem Umerov (3rdR) listen to explanations about assault weapons during their visit of a training facility ouside Kyiv on November 21, 2023. The German Defence minister arrived in the Ukrainian capital on November 21, 2023 morning for a surprise visit to reaffirm Berlin’s backing for Ukraine in its fight against Russia’s troops. (Photo by INA FASSBENDER / AFP) (Photo by INA FASSBENDER/AFP via Getty Images)

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Germany’s defense minister said on Sunday Russia was conducting an “information war” aimed at creating divisions within Germany, his first reaction to the publication in Russia of an audio recording of a meeting of senior German military officials.

Russian media on Friday published a 38-minute recording of a call in which German officers were heard discussing weapons for Ukraine and a potential strike by Kyiv on a bridge in Crimea, prompting Russian officials to demand an explanation.

On Saturday, Germany called it an apparent act of eavesdropping and said it was investigating.

“The incident is much more than just the interception and publication of a conversation … It is part of an information war that (Russian President Vladimir) Putin is waging,” Defense Minister Boris Pistorius said on Sunday.

“It is a hybrid disinformation attack. It is about division. It is about undermining our unity.”

The Kremlin has repeatedly denied accusations of spreading false or misleading information when faced with allegations from other countries.

A Russian foreign ministry spokesperson said on social media on Friday: “We demand an explanation from Germany,” without detailing its particular concerns.

Russia’s embassy in Berlin has not responded to an emailed request for comment.

Participants in the call discuss the possible delivery of Taurus cruise missiles to Kyiv, which Chancellor Olaf Scholz has publicly so far firmly rejected. They also talk about the training of Ukrainian soldiers, and possible military targets.

— Reuters

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy speaks during ‘Ukraine. Year 2024’ conference, amid Russia’s attack on Ukraine, in Kyiv, Ukraine, February 25, 2024.

Valentyn Ogirenko | Reuters

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said political will among his country’s international partners is required to ensure that Ukraine secures the military supplies it needs.

“Each partner knows what is needed. The main thing is the political will to implement everything. To provide exactly the level of supply that will help,” Zelenskyy said on Telegram Sunday.

“If this does not happen, it will be one of the most shameful pages of history — if America or Europe lose to the Iranian “Shahed” [Iranian-made drones] or Russian fighters,” he added.

There are concerns that the window of opportunity for supporting Ukraine is gradually closing, with Russia emboldened from recent gains in the east and continuing reluctance among some Western partners — such as Germany and some prominent Republicans in the U.S. — to supply more military aid or more advanced weapons (such as long-range Taurus missiles when it comes to Berlin).

— Holly Ellyatt

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