Russia ‘absurd’ to claim leaked conversation shows Germany planning for war, Berlin says

Kyiv urges West to send weapons to avert ‘shameful’ failure to halt Kremlin aggression

Berlin said Russia was being “absurd” by claiming that Germany planned to attack it, after Moscow released a recording of German military officers discussing how long-range missiles could be delivered and potentially used by Ukraine.

Germany is investigating how Moscow apparently gained access to an online conference call in which senior officers seem to have talked about how Berlin might provide Taurus missiles to Kyiv, and how Ukraine might use them to hit a major bridge and military supply route linking Russia with Crimea, which the Kremlin illegally annexed in 2014.

Ukraine has long lobbied for the missiles, but German chancellor Olaf Scholz has demurred, saying his country’s military would need control over which targets Kyiv chose to use Taurus on and that he would not send Bundeswehr personnel to Ukraine for that purpose.

“The recording itself says that within the Bundeswehr, plans to launch strikes on Russian territory are being discussed substantively and concretely. This does not require any legal interpretation. Everything here is more than obvious,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Monday.


“Here we have to find out whether the Bundeswehr is doing this on its own initiative. Then the question is: how controllable is the Bundeswehr, and how much does Scholz control the situation? Or is it part of German government policy?”

Dmitry Medvedev, a former president of Russia who is now deputy chairman of its security council, said on social media that “Germany is preparing for war with Russia”, and published a 1942 poem called Kill Him! which urged Soviet troops to kill German soldiers.

The German officers were heard preparing to give a briefing on Taurus and Ukraine to their country’s defence minister, Boris Pistorius, who said Russia’s leak of the recording “was certainly co-ordinated and choreographed, and is intended to reinforce the myth that we are working on a war against Russia, which is completely absurd”.

“The incident is much more than just the interception and publication of a conversation... It is part of an information war that [Vladimir] Putin is waging,” he added, in reference to Russia’s autocratic leader of 24 years. “It is a hybrid disinformation attack. It is about division. It is about undermining our unity.”

The furore is embarrassing for Berlin and a boon for the Kremlin, as it seeks to deflect condemnation over the death in jail of opposition leader Alexei Navalny, bolster its claim to be fighting what it calls the “collective West” in Ukraine, and rally support for Mr Putin before a presidential election in a fortnight that will inevitably extend his rule.

Russia’s foreign ministry on Monday summoned Germany’s ambassador in Moscow to demand an explanation about the officers’ conversation.

Ukraine halted rescue work in the ruins of an apartment block in Odesa where 12 people, including five children, were killed when it was hit by an explosive Russian drone.

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy urged allies to find the “political will” to give his country enough arms to win the war and warned that failure would be “one of the most shameful pages of [western] history”.

Daniel McLaughlin

Daniel McLaughlin

Daniel McLaughlin is a contributor to The Irish Times from central and eastern Europe