Germany accuses Russia of ‘information war’ over alleged military leak


Germany has accused Russia of an “information war” after a leaked recording purportedly revealed a top German officer discussing secret details about British troops in Ukraine.

Russian media obtained the allegedly intercepted comments by Lieutenant General Ingo Gerhartz, the head of the German air force, and three senior German air force officers, who had reportedly been speaking over insecure video conferencing software rather than an encrypted line.

It would be a hugely embarrassing security breach by Germany, if confirmed.

In the unverified audio, Lieutenant General Gerhartz says British troops were “on the ground” in Ukraine – and talks about how the UK and France were delivering cruise missiles to Ukraine, according to The Telegraph and The Times.

The comments were made in the context of Germany considering whether to send cruise missiles to Ukraine to support the Ukrainian military.

On the purported call, Lieutenant General Gerhartz said: “If we’re asked about delivery methods. I know how the British do this.

“They always transport them in Ridgeback armoured vehicles. They have several people on the ground.”

The 38-minute recording also purportedly included a discussion about a potential strike by Kyiv on a bridge in Crimea as well as details about the training of Ukrainian soldiers.

The British Ministry of Defence has declined to comment.

Tory MP Tobias Ellwood, former chairman of the Commons Defence Committee, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “This interception and the leak of military planning discussion is worrying on a number of decibel levels.”

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said an investigation had been launched into the “very serious” leak.

German defence minister Boris Pistorius speaking to the media about the leaked audio. Pic: Reuters

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Germany’s defence minister accused Russia and its leader Vladimir Putin of conducting an “information war” aimed at creating divisions.

Boris Pistorius said: “The incident is much more than just the interception and publication of a conversation… it is part of an information war that Putin is waging.

“It is a hybrid disinformation attack. It is about division. It is about undermining our unity.”

Russia claimed the recording showed the direct involvement of the West in the Ukraine conflict – and had summoned the German ambassador.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said it was not clear whether the German armed forces, the Bundeswehr, were acting on their own initiative or if it was part of state policy.

A Russian foreign ministry spokesperson later said on social media: “We demand an explanation from Germany.”

Russia probably using recording to undermine unity

Deborah Haynes

Security and Defence Editor


If the head of the German air force really was using insecure communications to discuss highly sensitive secrets, then it would be a hugely embarrassing and sloppy security breach.

But that is not confirmed.

Neither is the content of a leaked audio recording, which purportedly captures Lieutenant General Ingo Gerhartz sharing details with colleagues about alleged secret British and French military operations inside Ukraine.

Either way, it seems almost certain that Russia is deliberately using this recording to try to undermine unity among Western allies.

Hacking and leaking information is a well-known, long-standing weapon in hybrid – or grey zone – warfare.

One side manages to obtain sensitive information that could be used to harm an enemy and then leaks it publicly, potentially distorting elements beforehand to maximise the impact.

Germany was quick to accuse Russia of an “information war” after Russian media outlets last Friday leaked the content of the unverified audio recording of the German air chief.

If the German suspicion is correct, any media outlet that reports on the leak without including the context of it being a potential information attack by Russia is simply becoming part of the Russian weapons system and amplifying the harm caused by such an information operation.

To read more about the grey zone and hybrid warfare, click here

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