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Germany investigates the possible Russian eavesdropping of a military conference call

A Ukrainian soldier stands in front of a Marder infantry fighting vehicle at the German forces Bundeswehr training area in Munster, Germany, on Feb. 20, 2023.
Gregor Fischer
A Ukrainian soldier stands in front of a Marder infantry fighting vehicle at the German forces Bundeswehr training area in Munster, Germany, on Feb. 20, 2023.

Germany says it's launching an investigation after Russia reportedly eavesdropped on a video conference call of German military officers discussing the war in Ukraine.

The German officers were reportedly talking about sending weapons to Ukraine and a potential strike by Ukrainian military forces against a bridge in Crimea, the peninsula illegally annexed by Russia in 2014.

A Russian state TV journalist leaked audio on Friday purporting to be from the video conference in a post on the social media site Telegram.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who was traveling in Rome, told reporters on Saturday that the incident was "very serious."

According to a German defense ministry spokesperson, the federal office for military counterintelligence was investigating an apparent case of eavesdropping and noted that the recording may have been altered.

The call was held on the online video conferencing platform WebEx, and not on a secret internal army network, the German news site Der Spiegel reported.

In the recording, German officers reportedly discuss military targets, including a key bridge linking the Russian mainland to Crimea, as well as the possible delivery of Taurus cruise missiles to Kyiv.

Germany has provided an array of weapons and military equipment to Ukraine during its ongoing war with Russia, including tanks, missiles and artillery.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on Telegram that Germany owes Russia an explanation regarding the discussion of military operations in Crimea.

"Official Berlin is obliged to provide them promptly," Zakharova said. "Attempts to avoid answering questions will be considered an admission of guilt."

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the recording demonstrated the "cunning plans" of the German armed forces and called the leak "blatant self-exposure," Reuters reported.

Copyright 2024 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Rob Schmitz is NPR's international correspondent based in Berlin, where he covers the human stories of a vast region reckoning with its past while it tries to guide the world toward a brighter future. From his base in the heart of Europe, Schmitz has covered Germany's levelheaded management of the COVID-19 pandemic, the rise of right-wing nationalist politics in Poland and creeping Chinese government influence inside the Czech Republic.