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Russia-Ukraine war: Germany says Kremlin’s claim it is planning war with Russia is ‘absurd’ – as it happened

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Germany says Kremlin’s claim it is planning war with Russia is ‘absurd’

Kate Connolly

Kate Connolly

Germany’s ambassador to Moscow was summoned to the Russian foreign ministry on Monday in order to explain the leaked discussion between senior military personnel about sending weapons to Ukraine.

Alexander Graf Lamsdorff arrived at the foreign ministry without responding to journalists’ requests for comment, according to reports on Russian news agencies.

Germany’s defence minister, Boris Pistorius, has accused Russia of waging “an information war” against Germany, by intercepting and then leaking a sensitive meeting among high-level military officers of the German military or Bundeswehr.

Russia has accused Germany, backed by its allies, of planning an all-out war on Russia.

Russia’s foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, said the leaked discussions showed that the appetite for war in Europe “still remains very very high”, and the aim was to ensure “Russia’s strategic defeat on the battlefield”.

The former Russian president Dmitry Medvedev commented that: “Germany is planning a war with Russia”.

Pistorius dismissed the reactions as: “completely absurd”, accusing Moscow of wanting to sow distrust and discord in Germany.

German defence minister blames Vladimir Putin for military leak – video

In the telephone conference, four officers, including the head of Germany’s air force, Ingo Gerhartz, prepare for a discussion with defence minister Pistorius about the possible deployment of Taurus missiles to Ukraine, coming 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 in order to avoid putting German soldiers on Ukraine soil, was a possibility, but would take months of preparation. The officers also discussed the possibility of using the missiles to destroy the Russian-built bridge connecting the illegally annexed Crimean peninsula and Russia.

Last week, Germany’s chancellor, Olaf Scholz, ruled out the sending of Taurus missiles because he said the operation would involve sending German troops to Ukraine. He said: “German soldiers can at no point and in no place be linked with the targets that this (Taurus) system reaches. Not even in Germany.”

As the German government struggles to deal with the fallout from the leak, with questions asked about the security of its internal communications and speculation over what other discussions Russia has been able to listen in on, defence policy experts said the intercepted communication was clearly meant to undermine Germany’s Ukraine strategy.

Roderich Kiesewette, the opposition Christian Democrats’ defence expert, said that Russia had leaked the meeting at this moment in time in order 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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Key events

Closing summary

  • Ukraine said it had not seen the €16bn (£13.7bn) in proceeds from two donor conferences held in Poland in 2022, early on into Russia’s full-scale invasion. The two events in 2022 had raised 10 billion and six billion euros, respectively, the Ukrainian prime minister, Denys Shmygal, told a press conference.

  • A first-of-its-kind training exercise involving more than 20,000 soldiers from over a dozen countries has launched across northern Norway, Sweden and Finland as the region prepares to become a fully Nato territory within days. The training exercise across air, land and sea – which will also include soldiers from the UK, US, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, Belgium and Canada – will incorporate a cross-border operations exercise in the Arctic Circle.

  • The Kremlin said a purported recording of German military discussions showed Germany’s armed forces were discussing plans to launch strikes on Russian territory. Russian media on Friday published a 38-minute recording of a call in which German officers were heard discussing weapons for Ukraine and a potential strike by Kyiv on a bridge in Crimea. Germany’s ambassador to Moscow, Alexander Graf Lamsdorff, was summoned to the Russian foreign ministry on Monday in order to explain the leaked discussion. Russia’s foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, said the leaked discussions showed that the appetite for war in Europe “still remains very very high”, and the aim was to ensure “Russia’s strategic defeat on the battlefield”. The former Russian president Dmitry Medvedev commented that: “Germany is planning a war with Russia”. Germany’s defence minister, Boris Pistorius, dismissed the reactions as “completely absurd”, accusing Moscow of wanting to sow distrust and discord in Germany.

  • Disqualified Russian presidential candidate Boris Nadezhdin said he would keep filing challenges against his exclusion from this month’s election after his latest appeal was rejected by the supreme court.

  • Ukraine’s military intelligence agency launched a cyber-attack against the servers of the Russian defence ministry, gaining access to “a bulk of classified service documents,” the agency said.

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Ukraine says it has not received over £13bn from fundraisers

Ukraine said it had not seen the €16bn (£13.7bn) in proceeds from two donor conferences held in Poland in 2022, early on into Russia’s full-scale invasion.

The announcement comes amid concerns in Kyiv surrounding military and financial support, with the war entering its third year.

The two events in 2022 had raised 10 billion and six billion euros, respectively, the Ukrainian prime minister, Denys Shmygal, told a press conference.

“Ukraine received nothing from them. The funds were raised by Poland together with the European Commission to support Ukraine,” he said.

“Where did they go, what did they support … Ukraine has received nothing,” he added.

Kyiv has warned it desperately needs more military and financial assistance as it waits for a fresh $60bn package of US aid held up in Washington.

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Here is more on the deal Poland signed a deal to buy anti-tank grenade launchers from Sweden’s Saab.

The deal concerns the Carl-Gustaf M4 grenade launcher, which is intended to combat all types of modern combat vehicles.

Poland’s defence minister, Wladyslaw Kosiniak-Kamysz, said Poland would receive several thousand grenade launchers and several hundred thousand rounds of ammunition, as well as the necessary infrastructure, training and other elements necessary to use the weapon.

Poland signed a deal to buy anti-tank grenade launchers from Sweden’s Saab in a deal worth 6.5 billion złotys (£1.3bn), Poland’s defence minister, Wladyslaw Kosiniak-Kamysz, has said.

Warsaw has been one of Kyiv’s staunchest supporters since Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022 and has said Ukraine must regain control over all of its territory in order to deter Moscow from further aggression.

This year, Poland – which borders the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad – is spending about 4% of gross domestic product on defence as it seeks to strengthen its armed forces in the face of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

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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.

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.

You can read the full story by my colleagues, Dan Sabbagh and Kate Connolly, here:

Polish farmers’ blockade of the border with Ukraine has not affected the delivery of military or humanitarian aid to the country, Ukraine’s prime minister, Denys Shmygal, has said.

Farmers have been blocking the border and other highways to protest what they say is unfair competition from goods entering the Polish market from Ukraine.

“There have been no cases of delivery of weapons and military equipment, humanitarian aid, or fuel to Ukraine being blocked,” Shmygal told reporters in Kyiv.

“No cargo officially registered as military or humanitarian has been detained,” he added.

Here are some of the latest images coming out from the newswires:

Germany’s ambassador to Moscow, Alexander Graf Lamsdorff, outside the Russian foreign ministry in Moscow. Photograph: Maxim Shemetov/Reuters
Vladimir Putin, left, listens to Moscow’s mayor Sergei Sobyanin at the Kremlin in Moscow. Photograph: Mikhail Metzel/AP
Ukrainian prime minister Denys Shmyhal gives a press conference in Kyiv, Ukraine. Photograph: Global Images Ukraine/Getty Images

A group of more than 40 countries reiterated calls for Russia to allow an independent international investigation into the death of opposition leader Alexei Navalny in prison.

The call was made by EU ambassador Lotte Knudsen at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on behalf of all 27 EU states and 16 other countries, including Canada, the United Kingdom, the United States and Ukraine, according to Reuters.

Knudsen said:

We are outraged by the death of the Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny, for which the ultimate responsibility lies with President [Vladimir] Putin and the Russian authorities.

Russia must allow an independent and transparent international investigation into the circumstances of his sudden death.

Navalny, Putin’s fiercest critic inside Russia, died at the age of 47 in an Arctic penal colony on 16 February, sparking accusations from his supporters that he had been murdered.

The Kremlin has denied any state involvement in the death of the opposition leader, who was laid to rest in Moscow on Friday.

Russia’s Investigative Committee says it has launched a procedural investigation into the death, and the Kremlin has said it does not bow to EU demands.

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UN Nuclear watchdog chief Rafael Grossi said he intends to discuss Russia’s plans for the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant it is occupying in Ukraine when he meets Russian President Vladimir Putin this week.

Grossi is due to leave for Russia on Tuesday, he told a press conference on the opening day of a quarterly meeting of his agency’s 35-nation Board of Governors at which envoys from various countries marked the second anniversary of Russian forces seizing the Zaporizhzhia plant, Reuters reports.

Grossi’s trip to Russia has long been planned. He originally intended to go there last month after a trip to Ukraine.

When asked what he would discuss with Putin, Grossi said:

There are issues related to the future operational status of the plant. Is it going to be started or not? What is the idea? What is the idea in terms of the external power supply lines, since what we see is extremely fragile and thin?

Zaporizhzhia, Europe’s largest nuclear power plant, has lost its connection to all its external power lines eight times in the past 18 months, forcing it to rely on diesel generators for essential functions like cooling fuel in its reactors to avoid a potentially catastrophic meltdown.

While one of its main power lines is now functioning and its six reactors are in shutdown, which reduces the operational risk, the International Atomic Energy Agency says the situation at the plant remains precarious.

Although Grossi stopped short of spelling out that he would meet Putin, he said:

It’s the idea … This is the intention.

He left open what other issues might be discussed.

I would not be coming with a fixed list of items. As it happens, when I have a meeting with a world leader that has responsibilities, and in particular a nuclear-weapon possessor state, permanent member of the security council, I cannot exclude that other things are discussed.

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A Russian prosecutor has asked for the jail term of a former staffer of Alexei Navalny to be increased, Navalny’s team said on Telegram, in the first major court hearing related to an ally of the opposition politician since his death last month.

Liliya Chanysheva, the former head of Navalny’s office in the central Bashkortostan region, and her former colleague, Rustem Mulyukov, were the first Navalny staffers to be convicted of national security charges after his organisation was deemed “extremist” in 2021, Reuters reports.

Navalny, one of president Vladimir Putin’s fiercest critics inside Russia, died aged 47 in an Artic penal colony on 16 February. The Kremlin has angrily rejected claims it was involved in his death.

Chanysheva was handed a seven-and-a-half year sentence last year for participating in Navalny’s organisation, while Mulyukov received two-and-a-half years for similar charges.

A prosecutor in a cassation court in Samara on Monday demanded Chanysheva’s sentence be increased to ten years because she “provoked and incited Ufa residents” to protest in the streets, referring to Bashkortostan’s capital, independent outlet SOTA quoted the prosecutor as saying.

The cassation court returned Chanysheva and Mulyukov’s cases to Bashkortostan’s supreme court for a new examination, her lawyer wrote on Telegram.

At least two other Navalny staffers remain imprisoned in Russia: Vadim Ostanin, who ran Navalny’s branch in Barnaul and Ksenia Fadeyeva, a local lawmaker and former head of Navalny’s anti-corruption organisation in Tomsk.

Several of Navalny’s lawyers were also detained last year and are awaiting trial.

Ukraine expects the European Commission to present a negotiation framework for Kyiv’s accession to the EU “no later than 12 March”, deputy prime minister for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration Olga Stefanishyna has been quoted as saying.

“No later than 12 March, we expect the European Commission to present a negotiation framework and assess the progress of reforms so that EU countries can make a decision on 19 March,” Stefanishyna told journalists, according to Ukrinform.

“We hope that there will be no delays,” she added.

The European Commission recommended last November that formal EU membership negotiations with Ukraine and Moldova should begin, which its president, Ursula von der Leyen, described as a response to “the call of history”.

It started screening Ukraine’s legislation for compliance with EU laws in January, marking the initial step of the accession process, which includes meeting the necessary economic and legal criteria.

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Summary of the day so far…

  • Nato will start an exercise on Monday to defend its newly expanded Nordic territory when more than 20,000 soldiers from over a dozen countries take part in drills lasting nearly two weeks in the northern regions of Finland, Norway and Sweden. With over 4,000 Finnish soldiers taking part, the Norway-led Nordic Response 2024 drills are part of the largest Nato military exercise in decades. “For the first time, Finland will participate as a Nato member nation in exercising collective defense of the alliance’s regions,” the Finnish Defense Forces said.

  • The Kremlin said a purported recording of German military discussions showed Germany’s armed forces were discussing plans to launch strikes on Russian territory. Russian media on Friday published a 38-minute recording of a call in which German officers were heard discussing weapons for Ukraine and a potential strike by Kyiv on a bridge in Crimea. Germany’s ambassador to Moscow, Alexander Graf Lamsdorff, was summoned to the Russian foreign ministry on Monday in order to explain the leaked discussion. Russia’s foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, said the leaked discussions showed that the appetite for war in Europe “still remains very very high”, and the aim was to ensure “Russia’s strategic defeat on the battlefield”. The former Russian president Dmitry Medvedev commented that: “Germany is planning a war with Russia”. Germany’s defence minister, Boris Pistorius, dismissed the reactions as “completely absurd”, accusing Moscow of wanting to sow distrust and discord in Germany.

  • Disqualified Russian presidential candidate Boris Nadezhdin said he would keep filing challenges against his exclusion from this month’s election after his latest appeal was rejected by the supreme court on Monday.

  • Ukraine’s military intelligence agency launched a cyber-attack against the servers of the Russian defence ministry, gaining access to “a bulk of classified service documents,” the agency said.

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Disqualified Russian presidential candidate Boris Nadezhdin said he would keep filing challenges against his exclusion from this month’s election after his latest appeal was rejected by the supreme court on Monday (see earlier post at 10.33 for more details).

Nadezhdin had tried to run against Vladimir Putin on an anti-war ticket but was barred from standing when the Central Election Commission said it had found irregularities, including names of dead people, in the list of supporters’ signatures he had presented in support of his candidacy.

He said on Monday he planned to file a further complaint to the presidium of the supreme court and then to the constitutional court.

“I’m not going to stop, I’ll fight until the end,” he said.

Nadezhdin conceded weeks ago that he has “zero” chance of appearing on the ballot for the March 15-17 election, but has used the protracted appeal process to portray himself as a fighter intent on playing a future role in Russia’s politics.

Hungary’s prime minister, Viktor Orbán, will meet former US President Donald Trump this Friday in Florida, Reuters reports.

“It is not gambling but actually betting on the only sensible chance, that we in Hungary bet on the return of President Trump,” he told an economic forum on Monday.

“The only chance of the world for a relatively fast peace deal is political change in the United States, and this is linked to who is the president.”

The Hungarian leader, who has refused to send weapons to Ukraine and kept up close economic ties with Russia since the full-scale invasion in 2022, has repeatedly said that only the return of Trump to the White House could bring peace in Ukraine.

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An object that fell in a field in Poland, a Nato member, was a weather balloon, it has been confirmed.

The Fakt tabloid reported earlier on Monday that a military object had fallen in a field near the town of Milakowo, but police in nearby Ostroda clater onfirmed to Reuters that the object was a weather balloon.

“I confirm that this morning we received a report that an object fell in the fields near Milakowo, now we can confirm that it was a meteorological balloon,” a police spokesperson said.

“Our activities here focused on securing this place until the arrival of the army, and at the moment we are trying to explain the origin of this object and why it was found in these fields in our area.”

In November 2022, a stray Ukrainian missile struck the Polish village of Przewodow in southern Poland, killing two people and raising fears at the time of the war in Ukraine spilling over the border.

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Poland plans to ask the EU to put sanctions on Russian and Belarusian agricultural products, the country’s prime minister, Donald Tusk, said on Monday during a visit to the Lithuanian capital Vilnius.

Tusk has said agricultural products from Russia and Belarus were causing market distortions.

“Latvia decided to implement an embargo on the import of (agricultural) products from Russia,” he told a news conference last week. “We will analyse the case of Latvia, and I do not rule out that Poland will take an appropriate initiative.”

Germany’s chancellor, Olaf Scholz, has ruled out arming Ukraine with long-range Taurus missiles if German soldiers needed to be involved to help operate them.

“You cannot deliver a weapons system that has a very wide reach and then not think about how control over the weapons system can take place,” he was quoted by Reuters as saying at a school function.

“And if you want to have control and it’s only possible if German soldiers are involved, that’s out of the question for me.”

Germany has so far resisted sending Taurus missiles to Ukraine, wary of widening the scope of the war and being dragged into a direct confrontation with Russia.

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