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Germany spills British military secrets to Russia

Germany spills British military secrets to Russia
Germany spills British military secrets to Russia

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Ingo Gerhartz discussed the possible delivery of German Taurus missiles on the call

Ingo Gerhartz discussed the possible delivery of German Taurus missiles on the call – Maja Hitij/Getty

Germany accidentally leaked British military secrets to Russia by using off-the-shelf video phone technology to discuss missiles in Ukraine.

The head of the Luftwaffe told air force officers and a general who dialled in from his hotel room how British and French officials were delivering Storm Shadows to Ukrainian soldiers.

He also said British troops were “on the ground”, a highly sensitive detail that has already caused division and infighting among Nato allies.

Recordings of the call were broadcast by a Russian state television executive. The Kremlin maintains that Nato troops on the ground represent a serious provocation.

Boris Pistorius, the German defence minister, said on Sunday that Vladimir Putin was using the recording to try to “destabilise” Germany, sowing divisions with an “information war”.

In the call, Ingo Gerhartz, the Luftwaffe air force Lieutenant General, discusses the possible delivery of German Taurus missiles, which have a longer range and are more precise than Storm Shadows.

“If we’re asked about delivery methods. I know how the British do this,” he said. “They do it completely in reach-back [a military term indicating close collaboration with military intelligence, skipping normal protocols]. They have several people on the ground.”

Another participant on the call, believed to be Brigadier General Frank Graefe, discussed the training of Ukrainian troops on German soil. He said after they had been trained and were ready to return to Ukraine, the “right course of action” would be for Britain to “take over”.

“Just imagine the uproar if the media were to find out,” he added.

Roderich Kiesewetter. a German opposition politician, said it was likely that a Russian intelligence agent was simply able to join the call, which Luftwaffe officers were able to connect to on their mobile phones.

One participant on the call mentions that he could send further information via WhatsApp in a further possible security breach.

Olaf Scholz, the German chancellor, described the leak as “very serious” and ordered an investigation.

It comes after he suggested last week that British troops were in Ukraine helping to fire Storm Shadow missiles. Emmanuel Macron had earlier faced a backlash from Nato allies for suggesting troops could be sent to Ukraine in a limited capacity.

The call also further damages the chances of Germany sending Taurus missiles to Ukraine. Mr Scholz has so far blocked the move over fears they could be used to strike Moscow.

In the call, officers also discussed whether Taurus cruise missiles could possibly strike the Kerch bridge between the Russian mainland and the occupied Crimea peninsula.

This was described by Dmitry Medvedev, the former Russian president, as proof that Germany was “preparing for war against Russia”.

The discussion between Gerhartz and several other senior officers was confirmed by the German defence ministry to be authentic.

A spokesman told tabloid Bild “there are indications that an insufficiently secure means of communication was used in view of the content that was obviously discussed. This is, among other things, the subject of further investigations.”

Bob Seely, a Conservative MP, called Germany “incredibly complacent”, while Alec Shelbrooke, a former defence minister, described the leak as an “amateur blunder”

The intercepted call marks one of Germany’s worst security breaches since the Cold War.

“The question arises as to whether this is a one-off incident or a structural safety problem,” Konstantin von Notz, a member of the Greens, told German news agency RND.

The interception comes as Russia has made a series of battlefield gains, reversing much of Ukraine’s counter-offensive last summer.

Kyiv is pleading for more weapons and funding, much of which is blocked by allies of Donald Trump in the US Congress in a row over migration and the Mexico border.

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