Leaked Recording Of German Military Call On Taurus Missiles Is Part Of Putin’s ‘Information War,’ Says Minister


(RFE/RL) — Berlin accused Russia on March 3 of trying to sow disunity following the leak of a confidential conference call between high-ranking German military staff discussing the possible use of German-made Taurus missiles by Ukraine. 

A recording of the call between the commander in chief of the German Air Force, General Ingo Gerhartz, and Brigadier General Frank Graefe, along with two Bundeswehr officers was posted online on March 1 on Russian social media, initially by Margarita Simonyan, editor in chief of the Russian state-controlled RT media group, formerly known as Russia Today. Simonyan did not explain where she got the recording of the 38-minute call.

Ukraine has been asking Germany to provide it with Taurus missiles, which can reach targets up to 500 kilometers away, giving Ukrainian forces a boost as Kyiv struggles to fend off Russia’s full-scale invasion.

The German Defense Ministry confirmed on March 3 that a “conversation related to the Air Force” had been intercepted. 

“Whether changes were made to the recorded oral or written version that is circulating on social media, we cannot say with certainty at this time,” a ministry spokesman said, according to German broadcaster ARD.

Representatives of the army told Germany’s other public broadcaster, ZDF, that they considered the recording to be authentic.

German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius said the timing of the release of the recording was not a coincidence.

“It is about using this recording to destabilize and unsettle us,” Pistorius said, speaking at a news briefing in Berlin on March 3. 

“It is part of an information war that [Russian President Vladimir] Putin is waging. There is absolutely no doubt about that,” he said at a news briefing in Berlin. “It is a hybrid attack aimed at disinformation. It is about division. It is about undermining our resolve.”

He said Germany should not “fall for Putin’s line” and the reaction should be “in a particularly level-headed manner, but no less resolutely.”

Pistorius added that he would await the result of a military probe into the case to decide what the consequences should be.

The recording includes a detailed discussion of how the German military can technically support the supply of Taurus cruise missiles to Ukraine in the event of a decision by German Chancellor Olaf Scholz to allow them to be sent.

Scholz has refused to send the missiles, fearing that it would lead to an escalation of the conflict, draw Germany more deeply into the fight, and potentially touch off the use of nuclear weapons by Russia.

The wiretapped exchange includes a discussion of whether the Taurus would theoretically be technically capable of destroying the bridge connecting Russia to the Crimean Peninsula that Russia illegally annexed in 2014. 

The discussion also addresses whether Ukraine could carry out the strike without the involvement of German armed forces. 

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on March 2 that the recording indicated that Ukraine and its backers “do not want to change their course at all and want to inflict a strategic defeat on Russia on the battlefield.”

Former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, now deputy head of the Security Council, went further, saying Germany “is preparing for war with Russia.”

The discussion between the German military officers also covered the use of long-range missiles SCALP and Storm Shadow missiles provided to Kyiv by France and Britain each with a range of about 250 kilometers.

The audio recording also contains a diplomatically sensitive reference to the British having “a few people on the ground” in Ukraine in connection with the deployment of the Storm Shadow. Britain has denied that it had any direct involvement in operating the missiles.

Scholz on March 2 promised swift clarification of the incident, calling it a “very serious matter.” But the fallout from the scandal continued on March 3 as members of the German parliament demanded consequences, including that German military leaders be trained in protected communications.

The discussion was vulnerable to wiretapping because the officers were not using an encrypted line, according to sources quoted by dpa. The sources said the discussion was hosted on Webex, a conferencing platform made by the U.S. tech giant Cisco.


RFE/RL journalists report the news in 21 countries where a free press is banned by the government or not fully established.

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