'Incredibly complacent!' Germany leaks top secret British military details to Russia in major security breach

'Incredibly complacent!' Germany leaks top secret British military details to Russia in major security breach

Russia-Germany relations were already at a nadir, with the recent leak compounding troubles further

GB News
James Saunders

By James Saunders

Published: 04/03/2024

- 09:14

Updated: 04/03/2024

- 13:02

The 'amateur blunder' saw top army officials' non-secure phone call intercepted by Russian spies

Germany’s armed forces have been slammed for accidentally leaking British secrets to Russia in one of the country’s most severe security slip-ups since the Cold War.

The “very serious” leak saw Ingo Gerhartz, the head of the Luftwaffe, discussing Western military assistance to Ukraine with other air force officers via mobile phone – which Russian intelligence promptly intercepted.

The call – which one general joined from a Singapore hotel room phone – covered how British and French officials were outfitting Ukrainian forces with Storm Shadow missiles, and detailed both UK troop placements and German weapons delivery plans in Ukraine.

In a major blow to British secrecy, 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.”

Putin, Ingo Gerhartz, Olaf Scholz

Luftwaffe head Ingo Gerhartz (inset) is under fire from Chancellor Olaf Scholz for the "very serious" leak to Russia

Reuters/Wikimedia Commons

Brigadier General Frank Graefe, reportedly also on the call, said “the right course of action” would be for the UK to “take over” the training of Ukrainian troops from Germany.

Graefe continued: “Just imagine the uproar if the media were to find out.”

Officers also discussed whether German Taurus Missiles could reach the Kerch bridge, which connects Russian-occupied Crimea and the Russian mainland – which former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev alleged meant Germany was “preparing for war against Russia”.

One participant on the call, hosted on commercial videoconferencing service Webex, suggested sending more information over WhatsApp in what could amount to another security breach.


Alec Shelbrooke

Former defence minister Alec Shelbrooke slammed the leak as an “amateur blunder”


A German defence ministry spokesperson told Bild: “There are indications that an insufficiently secure means of communication was used in view of the content that was obviously discussed. This is, among other things, the subject of further investigations.”

Roderich Kiesewetter, German MP and former army officer, said a Russian spy could have simply joined the call – recordings of which were subsequently broadcast on Russian TV.

Kiesewetter said the leak “may be a Russian attempt to steer the public debate away from the Wirecard revelations and the funeral of Alexei Navalny”.

While fellow MP Konstantin von Notz said: “The question arises as to whether this is a one-off incident or a structural safety problem,” speaking to German news agency RND.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has ordered an investigation into the incident, describing it as “very serious”.

British figures were swift to condemn the leak – MP Bob Seely said Germany was “incredibly complacent”, while former defence minister Alec Shelbrooke called it an “amateur blunder”.

The incident will be seen by some as another verbal escalation over Ukraine – Graefe’s claim UK forces were “on the ground” comes after dire warnings by Vladimir Putin of “tragic” consequences for any direct Nato intervention at a Moscow rally this week.

And Putin’s warnings themselves follow assertions by French President Emmanuel Macron that France would not “rule out” troop deployments in Ukraine – which Britain, despite the leak, rebuffed.

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