German defense minister said leaked audio is part of Russia's 'information war' against West

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WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Germany's defense minister on Sunday described Russia's leak of a conversation by ranking German military officers to be part of Russia's “information war” against the West, and that the aim was to create discord within Germany.

In the audio recording leaked by Russian state media on Friday, German military officers can be heard discussing support for Ukraine, including the potential use of Taurus missiles.

The audio was leaked on the same day that late opposition politician Alexei Navalny was laid to rest after his still-unexplained death two weeks ago in an Arctic penal colony.

Defense Minister Boris Pistorius said the timing was not a coincidence.

“It is part of an information war that Putin is waging. There is absolutely no doubt about that,” he said. “It is a hybrid attack aimed at disinformation. It is about division. It is about undermining our resolve.”

Speaking at a news briefing in Berlin, Pistorius added: "Accordingly, we should react in a particularly level-headed manner, but no less resolutely.”

In the 38-minute recording, military officers discuss the question of how the Taurus long-range cruise missiles could be used by Ukraine. The audio was leaked as a debate has been taking place in Germany over whether to supply the missiles.

“This is clearly about undermining our unity,” Pistorius said.

Ukraine has been asking for them as it faces setbacks on the battlefield after two years of war, and with military aid from the United States being held up in Congress.

Earlier this week, Scholz said he remains reluctant to send the Taurus missiles to Ukraine, pointing to a risk of Germany becoming directly involved in the war. His hesitancy is a source of friction in his three-party coalition and also annoyed Germany’s conservative opposition.

But in the purported audio recording, German officers discuss the theoretical possibility of the missiles being used in Ukraine.

Pistorius said the officers made clear at all times in the recording that "the line of war participation ... would not be crossed.”