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Germany investigates after a recording of its officers discussing aid to Ukraine is leaked in Russia

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WARSAW, Poland -

German authorities on Saturday said they were investigating after an audio recording, in which German military officers purportedly discussed support for Ukraine, including the potential use of Taurus missiles, was published in Russia.

Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who was in Rome on Saturday, called it a “very serious matter" and said that German authorities were working to clarify the matter “very carefully, very intensively and very quickly.” His comments were carried by Germany's dpa news agency.

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

Germany’s Ministry of Defense said it was investigating whether communications within the air force were intercepted by Russia. In a statement carried by dpa, it said: “According to our assessment, a conversation within the Air Force was intercepted. We cannot currently say with certainty whether changes have been made to the recorded or written version that is circulating on social media."

Margarita Simonyan, chief editor of Russian state-funded TV channel RT, posted the audio on social media.

“In this (...) recording, high-ranking Bundeswehr officers discuss how they will bomb (attention!) the Crimean bridge,” she wrote on the Telegram messaging app, adding that the conversation took place on Feb. 19. Within the conversation, she said, one of the officers mentioned a planned trip to Ukraine on Feb. 21 to coordinate strikes on Russian targets.

Germany is now the second-biggest supplier of military aid to Ukraine after the United States and is further stepping up its support this year. But Scholz has stalled for months on Ukraine’s desire for Taurus missiles, which have a range of up to 500 kilometres (310 miles) and could in theory be used against targets far into Russian territory.

The chancellor has long emphasized his determination to help Ukraine without escalating the war and drawing in Germany and NATO, stressing that no German soldiers will go to Ukraine.

“We will not send European soldiers to Ukraine. We don’t want a war between Russia and NATO. And we will do all we can to prevent it,” Scholz told a meeting of the Party of European Socialists in Rome on Saturday.

On Monday, French President Emmanuel Macron said the future deployment of Western troops on the ground in Ukraine was not “ruled out," a suggestion quickly dismissed by Germany, Poland and other allied countries.

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