British soldiers helping fire Ukrainian missiles, Olaf Scholz reveals

Olaf Scholz, the German chancellor, has been criticised by his own MPs for the remarks
Olaf Scholz, the German chancellor, has been criticised by his own MPs for the remarks - REUTERS/Liesa Johannssen

Germany was accused of a “flagrant abuse of intelligence” after revealing that British soldiers are supporting Ukrainian forces launching long-range Storm Shadow missiles.

Olaf Scholz said on Monday that he would not deliver the Taurus, Berlin’s equivalent of the Storm Shadow, as it would require soldiers assisting on the ground, citing the UK and French approach with their own systems. Mr Scholz argued that following the UK would make Germany a “participant in the war”.

The comments were seen as endangering British military and diplomatic personnel on the ground.

Tobias Ellwood, the former chairman of the Commons defence committee, said: “This is a flagrant abuse of intelligence deliberately designed to distract from Germany’s reluctance to arm Ukraine with its own long-range missile system. This will no doubt be used by Russia to racket up the escalator ladder.”

Mr Scholz was also criticised by German opposition MPs.

“The chancellor’s statement regarding France and Britain’s alleged involvement in operating long-range cruise missiles used in Ukraine is completely irresponsible,” Norbert Rottgen, a senior MP from Angela Merkel’s former ruling party, the CDU.

Mr Scholz is under mounting pressure to deliver the long-range missile to disrupt Russia’s supply lines and prevent Moscow taking further territory.

He said on Monday that German soldiers could not follow their British and French peers in “the way of target control and accompanying target control”. The Storm Shadow is co-produced by the UK and France.

“German soldiers can at no point and in no place be linked with the targets that this system [the Taurus] reaches. Not even in Germany,” Mr Scholz said.

Britain is known to provide intelligence on Russian targets but it is unclear what level of support is given to Ukrainian troops firing its missiles on the ground.

On Tuesday, the UK Government announced it had a “small number” of soldiers deployed inside Ukraine, specifying only that some were involved in medical training.

Mr Scholz’s speculation on the role played by British troops in Ukraine has heightened concern for the safety of diplomats and other personnel stationed in the country, defence sources told The Telegraph.

It has also increased the threat of potential Russian overseas intelligence operations on British soil, the sources added.

In response to Mr Scholz, the Ministry of Defence simply referred queries to Kyiv on Tuesday.

“Ukraine’s use of Storm Shadow and its targeting processes are the business of the armed forces of Ukraine,” a spokesman told The Telegraph.

“The UK, along with other allies, is providing a range of equipment to Ukraine to help it counter Russia’s illegal and unprovoked aggression.”

Taurus missiles are capable of deeper strikes and contain more sophisticated bunker-busting technologies than the British Storm Shadow and French Scalp cruise missiles delivered last year.

The German missile, which has a range of 310 miles, could easily strike politically sensitive targets, such as Moscow or the Kerch bridge linking Russia with occupied Crimea.

Justin Crump, chief executive of Sibylline, an intelligence consultancy, said: “British support to Ukraine is hardly news to Moscow given repeated leaks, but this has previously been veiled in ambiguity – itself drawing on a trick from Russia’s own playbook.

A Russian warship is damaged by a Ukrainian attack on a Black Sea port using long-range cruise missiles
A Russian warship is damaged by a Ukrainian attack on a Black Sea port using long-range cruise missiles - UNPIXS

“[Mr] Scholz though has more clearly pierced this veil. His assertion is a gift to Russian propagandists, already forming a key part of Russia’s effort to undermine Nato cohesion and support for Kyiv during this critical period ahead of US and UK elections.”

“More immediately, it will drive Russia to redouble efforts to target foreign forces present in Ukraine and make inflated claims of losses.”

Mr Scholz has a deep mistrust that Ukraine would ignore his orders not to strike those targets, analysts said.

“It has become very clear that the reason why he is not in favour of delivering Taurus is because he fundamentally does not trust the Ukrainians to use those missiles in a way that [does] not go against what he perceives as Germany’s interests,” Fabian Hoffman, a doctoral research fellow at the Oslo Nuclear Project, said.

“[Mr] Scholz is absolutely frightened that any of these Taurus missiles could be used in an attack against a politically sensitive target, either in Ukraine or Russia.

“Simply the theoretical ability to strike targets as far as Moscow with German weapons systems creates a blockage in the chancellor’s head… a massive fear of escalation potential and the consequences this could have for Germany.”

Experts say that Germany could overcome its fears of escalatory strikes by pre-programming donated Taurus missiles to prevent such attacks.

The US is known to have installed geo-blocking software on its Himars rocket launchers sent to Ukraine, preventing Kyiv’s forces from firing into Russian soil with the weapons system.