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German prosecutors probe leaked Bundeswehr wiretap

March 20, 2024

Prosecutors say they are looking into suspected espionage after Russian media leaked a recording in which German officers discuss the impacts of potentially supplying Ukraine with Taurus cruise missiles.

German military guard battalion
German federal prosecutors have opened an investigation into the wiretapping of a conversation between Bundeswehr officersImage: Bernd von Jutrczenka/dpa/picture alliance

German federal prosecutors on Wednesday opened an investigation into the leak of a wiretapped conversation between Bundeswehr officers.

A spokeswoman for the Federal Prosecutor's Office in Karlsruhe said there was suspicion of "secret service activity," but did not say who was being investigated.

Germany has been the second-largest supplier of military aid to Kyiv to help it fend off Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

What was the leaked recording?

The recorded conversation was published on Telegram by Russian state broadcaster RT early in March.

In the recording, German military officers are heard discussing the potential delivery of long-range Taurus cruise missiles to Kyiv and their potential impact on the war.

The officers also discussed whether the missiles could be used to destroy a bridge, in an apparent reference to the Kerch Bridge that links Russia to the Crimean Peninsula, which Moscow illegally took control of and annexed in 2014.

The contents of the leaked conversation were widely condemned by Russian officials.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the recording "suggests that within the Bundeswehr, there are substantive and specific discussions about plans to strike Russian territory." Dmitry Medvedev, deputy chairman of Russia's Security Council, said that the conversation showed that Germany was preparing for war with Russia.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has repeatedly ruled out providing Kyiv with the missiles, saying such a move would risk getting Germany drawn directly into the war, as they would allow Ukraine to strike deep into Russian territory and would require target guidance from German personnel.

German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius
Defense Minister Boris Pistorius said that an individual error had lead to the wiretappingImage: Jonathan Penschek/dpa/picture alliance

What else do we know about the investigation?

Germany's Defense Ministry said following initial investigations that the leak was the result of the carelessness of an army general who had dialed from a hotel in Singapore through a non-secure line.

A few days after the recording was published, Defense Minister Boris Pistorius spoke of an "individual application error" that had led to a "chance hit" during an eavesdropping operation at the Singapore Airshow.

"For Russian secret services, an event like this in this environment is understandably a real find," he said.

Pistorius has said there may be internal disciplinary proceedings over the incident but that no one will be fired.

sdi/sms (dpa, AFP)

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