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7 Jul, 2023 21:18

German spies tapped calls between Lukashenko and Wagner boss – media

Berlin’s intelligence agencies previously faced criticism for allegedly not informing their government in advance about the mutiny in Russia
German spies tapped calls between Lukashenko and Wagner boss – media

Germany’s Federal Intelligence Service (BND) reportedly wiretapped communications between Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko and Wagner Group founder Evgeny Prigozhin, public German media group, ARD reported on Friday. The two held talks by phone that ended the private military company’s mutiny in Russia in late June.

Berlin’s spies learned about Lukashenko’s role as a mediator and were able to follow the discussions using “their own sources,” the broadcaster reported, citing investigation by the NDR and WDR broadcasters, which are part of the same media group.

The BND “apparently witnessed the crucial conversation,” the reports said, though they did not reveal any new information about the talks which had not already been revealed by Lukashenko himself.

A BND spokesman refused to comment on the claim, saying the agency “generally does not comment publicly on matters relating to any intelligence findings or activities.” He neither confirmed nor denied the information.

Media reports recently suggested that the intel service had failed to inform the German government about the mutiny until it was in full swing, when Wagner fighters had already taken control of parts of the city of Rostov-on-Don and were marching towards Moscow.

Chancellor Olaf Scholz told the media that Berlin’s spies “didn’t know beforehand” about the Wagner Group’s plans and only “reported what could be observed.”

According to ARD, however, the BND had seen “vague indications” that the private military company was plotting an uprising about a week before it occurred. It failed to verify the information through contact with its partners, the media group added.

US media has reported that Washington’s spy agencies knew about Prigozhin’s plans in advance and briefed the White House and the Pentagon several days before the mutiny. The first warning from the BND to the chancellor’s office in Berlin reportedly came on the evening of July 23, however, just hours before Wagner’s fighters began their march.

BND chief Bruno Kahl answered questions from MPs about his agency’s handling of the episode on Wednesday, ARD said.

German intelligence also failed to predict the start of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine last year. Kahl even traveled to Kiev in late February 2022 and had to be hastily evacuated in a special convoy when Moscow launched its military operation.

The German media group also reported that the BND hacked into Wagner’s internal communications last year and were “quite well-informed” about its inner workings. That wiretapping was reportedly revealed to Moscow by an employee identified as Carsten L., who is currently facing treason charges in Germany.

Prigozhin staged a brief coup attempt in late June in what he described as an effort to oust senior Russian military officials who he accused of treason. He quickly abandoned his plans after crisis talks with Lukashenko, who offered to host him in Belarus and provided security guarantees to him and his fighters as part of a deal between the Wagner Group and Moscow.

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