Leaked audio obtained by Russian spies reveals Germany considered giving Ukraine missiles to destroy key Crimean bridge: WSJ

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Leaked audio obtained by Russian spies reveals Germany considered giving Ukraine missiles to destroy key Crimean bridge: WSJ
Taurus, a long-range guided missile, is on display in Pyeongtaek, South Korea. The missiles are one of Ukraine's top asks to Germany.Jung Yeon-Je/AFP via Getty Images
  • Russian spies recorded a conversation involving top German military officers, WSJ reported.
  • The officials were discussing plans to send Ukraine missiles that could destroy the Crimean bridge.
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Leaked audio obtained by Russian spies and later broadcast by the Russian state-controlled news network RT on Friday shows that top German officials were discussing plans to possibly send Ukraine long-range missiles that can take out the key Crimean bridge.

Senior German officials confirmed the authenticity of the audio to The Wall Street Journal.

A spokesperson for the German Ministry of Defense told Business Insider in an email that "a conversation in the air force sector" had been intercepted but could not comment "about the content of the communications that were apparently intercepted."

The spokesperson added that the counterintelligence service is conducting an investigation into the leak and that they could not say if any changes were made to the recording or transcript that is being shared on social media.

The audio pertained to a meeting held in February, during which Germany's top air force chief, Gen. Ingo Gerhartz, gathered his aides to prepare a presentation for the country's defense minister. The presentation was supposed to outline how Germany could deliver the Taurus, a long-range guided missile, to Ukraine and how many missiles it would take to destroy the Kerch Bridge, The Journal reported.

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The missiles have been one of Ukraine's key asks to Germany. The Taurus has a long range of about 310 miles, according to MBDA, a European missile manufacturer, and stealth capability that can avoid radar detection, allowing for the targeting of more complex infrastructure such as a bridge.

But it's also the top reason German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has been reluctant — much to the frustration of some officials in Scholz's cabinet and the conservative opposition — to provide Ukraine with the weapons.

The Taurus is a "very far-reaching weapon," Scholz said on Monday at a conference hosted by the German news agency dpa, according to The Associated Press. The chancellor argued that the weapons system was unnecessary and expressed concern that it could escalate the war.

The leaked audio does not confirm that Germany was definitively going to send Taurus missiles to Ukraine. The leak may have further jeopardized any chance that Ukraine will obtain the weapons, analysts said, according to The Journal.

In the conversation, military officers were considering how they could deliver the Taurus to Ukraine, how long it would take to train Ukrainian soldiers to operate the missile, and how many missiles Germany should send, The Journal reported.

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Officials, according to the report, also can be heard acknowledging that the Taurus can take out the Crimean bridge — a key supply line for Russia — and that it would take 10 to 20 missiles to evade Russia's defense system and destroy the infrastructure.

"There is no real reason to say we can't do this; it only depends on the political red lines," Gerhartz is heard saying in the audio, according to The Journal. The general also can be heard saying that Germany should not send more than 100 missiles, as it would not help Ukraine follow up with a ground offensive, according to the report.

The Kremlin expressed outrage at Germany following the audio leak.

"We demand explanations from Germany," Maria Zakharova, the Russian Foreign Ministry's spokesperson, told TASS, the Russian state news agency. "Any attempts to evade answering questions will be viewed as an admission of guilt."

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