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Germany to probe leak of high-level discussions about sending cruise missiles to Ukraine

Olaf Scholz has ordered an urgent investigation into a leak of a highly sensitive conversation
Olaf Scholz has ordered an urgent investigation into a leak of a highly sensitive conversation - Michaela Rehle/Reuters

Olaf Scholz has ordered an urgent investigation into the leak of a highly sensitive conversation between senior German military officials about sending cruise missiles to Ukraine.

On Friday, Margarita Simonyan, the head of the Russian state-backed RT channel, published the transcript of a lengthy discussion between German army chiefs about the potential use of Taurus cruise missiles by the Ukrainian military.

In the leaked recording, German army officials also discussed details of how Britain and France support Ukraine with similar missile systems, and the possibility that German missiles might be used to strike the strategically important Crimean Bridge if they were delivered to Kyiv.

The leaked audio and transcript of the conversation appears to be authentic, according to the German investigative magazine Spiegel, which cited experts.

The potential provision of Taurus missiles to Ukraine is a hugely contentious issue in Berlin
The potential provision of Taurus missiles to Ukraine is a hugely contentious issue in Berlin

“What is being reported is a very serious matter and that is why it is now being investigated very carefully, very intensively and very quickly,” the German chancellor said of the apparent leak, during a visit to Rome this weekend.

A spokesperson for the German defence ministry confirmed it is investigating “whether communications in the air force sector were intercepted”.

If the conversation is confirmed to have been intercepted by Russia, it would potentially mark one of Germany’s worst security breaches since the Cold War.

German politicians have already raised concerns that the material published by Simonyan on Friday could just be the first in a series of hugely embarrassing leaks for Berlin.

“If this story turns out to be true, it would be a highly problematic event,” Konstantin von Notz, a member of the Greens, told German broadcaster RND. “The question arises as to whether this is a one-off incident or a structural safety problem.”

In the leaked recording, German officials discussed the possibility that the missiles might be used to strike the strategically important Crimean bridge
In the leaked recording, German officials discussed the possibility that the missiles might be used to strike the strategically important Crimean bridge - AP/AP

The potential provision of Taurus missiles to Ukraine is a hugely contentious issue in Berlin. Mr Scholz has repeatedly refused to deliver them to Kyiv as he fears this would be an unacceptable escalation and something that could drag Germany into a war with Russia.

He is particularly concerned about the long-range missiles being launched on targets in Moscow, such as the Kremlin headquarters.

“[The Taurus], which has a range of 500 kilometres and if used incorrectly could reach a specific target somewhere in Moscow, is a weapon where the question must be asked, ‘what would be done with it’, and this cannot be decided simply with encouraging statements,” he said on Thursday.

Critics of Mr Scholz have frequently pointed out that Britain and France already provide Ukraine with Storm Shadow and Scalp missiles, which are very similar to the Taurus system.