German Military Leak Says UK Soldiers ‘on the Ground’ in Ukraine

March 11th, 2024 - by Dan Sabbagh and Kate Connolly / The Guardian & Veronika Melkozerova / Politico

Kremlin releases secret audio of British officers ploting missile attacks on Russia.
Photo shows British troops “on the ground” in Ukraine in 2014.

UK Military Caught on Tape Admitting
British Troops Are “on the Ground” in Ukraine
Dan Sabbagh and Kate Connolly / The Guardian

(March 5, 2024) — British soldiers are “on the ground” in Ukraine helping Kyiv’s forces fire long-range Storm Shadow missiles, according to a leak in Russian media of a top-secret call involving German air force officers.

The Kremlin said the leak demonstrated the direct involvement of the “collective west” in the war in Ukraine, while former British defence ministers expressed frustration with the German military in response to the revelations.

Released on Friday by the editor of the Kremlin-controlled news channel RT, Margarita Simonyan, the audio recording — confirmed as authentic by Germany — captures Luftwaffe officers discussing how Berlin’s Taurus missiles could be used to try to blow up the Kerch Bridge connecting Russia with occupied Crimea.

German Lt. Gen. Ingo Gerhartz caught plotting to send missiles across  Russian border.

During the conversation, Lt Gen Ingo Gerhartz, the head of the Luftwaffe, describes how Britain works with Ukraine on deploying Storm Shadow missiles against targets up to 150 miles behind Russian lines.

“When it comes to mission planning,” the German commander says, “I know how the English do it, they do it completely in reachback. They also have a few people on the ground, they do that, the French don’t.”

Reachback is a military term to describe how intelligence, equipment and support from the rear is brought forward to units deployed on the front, but Gerhartz suggests the British approach is deeper, involving support on site.

The Kremlin spokesperson, Dmitry Peskov, said the leaked conversations “once again highlight the direct involvement of the collective west in the conflict in Ukraine” — although on Sunday Germany’s defence minister, Boris Pistorius, accused Moscow of waging “an information war” against the west.

Nevertheless, the authenticity of the 38-minute conversation, which took place a fortnight ago on the relatively insecure Webex platform, is not being doubted. It appears to have been hacked and recorded by Russian actors who passed it on to the editor of RT to release on Telegram on Friday.

Tobias Ellwood, a former UK junior defence minister, said the leak was embarrassing to Berlin, although he told the BBC that Russia probably knew about the British presence given the intensity of its espionage activities.

Britain is providing Storm Shadow missiles to hit targets deep inside Russia.

But that should “not prevent some serious conversations taking place in the diplomatic corridors between Germany and Britain and indeed Nato, as well as to why this happened in the first place”, Ellwood added.

Britain confirmed the presence of a “small number of personnel” in Ukraine on Tuesday last week, although it did not say what tasks they were undertaking amid concerns that any potential combat involvement could be considered as escalatory by Moscow.

That followed a surprise statement by the German chancellor, Olaf Scholz, last Monday, who said he would not provide Taurus missiles to Ukraine because it would require the presence of Germans to match the British and French and be engaged in “the way of target control and accompanying target control”.

That, he warned, risked making Berlin a “participant in the war” even if such soldiers were based in Germany. “German soldiers can at no point and in no place be linked with the targets that this system [the Taurus] reaches,” he added.

On the recording, Gerhartz and three other German officers are discussing the chancellor’s refusal, and how it may be possible to get around it, before a 30-minute meeting the air force chief has with the defence minister, Pistorius. They complain that a German journalist, said to be close to Scholz, had been briefed that Taurus is not effective.

German generals caught plotting  to use Taurus missiles to attack targets in Russia

They come to the conclusion that a speedy delivery and the use of the missiles in the immediate future would only be possible if German soldiers were involved. Taurus training for Ukrainian soldiers to avoid putting German soldiers on Ukraine soil was a possibility, but would take months of preparation.

Taurus missiles have a longer maximum range than Storm Shadow and Scalp, their French equivalents, of 300 miles. On the call, the German officers discuss potential target types for the Taurus including a “bridge in the east” that is said to be difficult to reach with pillars that are “relatively small”.

The description matches the strategic Kerch Bridge, a key supply route to Russian occupied Crimea, which despite numerous attempts to bomb it, the Ukrainians have so far been unable to destroy. They conclude it would be technically feasible to blow up the bridge, but it may take “10 to 20 missiles”.

Roderich Kiesewetter, the opposition Christian Democrats’ defence expert, said Russia had leaked the meeting at this moment in time to specifically “undermine a German Taurus delivery”. He suggested the leak was carried out “in order to divert public conversation away” from other issues, including the death of Alexei Navalny.

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Ukraine launches drone attacks with the help of military reconnaissance units deep inside Russian territory 

2022 Drone Attack Hits Russia’s Engels Airbase
Veronika Melkozerova / Politico

(December 26, 2022) — An overnight drone attack on Monday targeted the Engels airbase deep inside Russia for the second time this month, killing three servicemen in what appears to be a renewed sign of Ukraine’s readiness to target offensive threats way beyond its border areas.

Russian Telegram channels reported a strong explosion and a fire, while Russia’s state-run Ria-Novosti news agency, citing the defense ministry, said air defenses downed a Ukrainian drone heading towards the base. Engels air base is located about 600 km northeast of the Ukrainian border.

Delivering a symbolic blow, this second long-range attack on one of Russia’s most strategically important bases — home to nuclear-capable bombers — came on the same day the Russian army was celebrating the 107th anniversary of the creation of its air defense units.

The previous attack happened on December 5.  New York Times has reported that Ukraine carried out the attack with drones and the help of a military reconnaissance unit coordinating it deep inside Russian territory. Russian authorities claimed that attack damaged two planes, killed three servicemen and wounded four others.

On Monday, locals reported a strong blast in the same airfield but the Russian defense ministry claimed no significant damage was done to its aircraft.

Ukraine has not taken responsibility for either strike.

“There is absolutely no threat to residents. Civil infrastructure facilities were not damaged,” Roman Busargin, governor of the Saratov region, said in a statement.

“Law enforcement agencies have been investigating the incident at a military facility.”

Busargin also issued a warning about criminal liability for spreading false information, claiming that news on the incident published in media and by citizens will be promptly sent to law enforcement agencies.

Engels airfield is a base for Russian strategic bombers used to carry missile strikes against Ukraine. In addition, those bombers are also a part of Russia’s nuclear triad, as they can carry nuclear warheads.

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