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11/07/2023 | German spy services had foreknowledge of Wagner mutiny, report claims

Joseph Fitsanakis

CONTRARY TO EARLIER CLAIMS that the German intelligence agencies failed to anticipate last month’s showdown between PMC Wagner and the Kremlin, German intelligence did in fact have foreknowledge of the mercenary group’s uprising, a new investigative report has concluded. The report further claims that German intelligence had unique and real-time insights into the negotiations between Wagner PMC leader Yevgeny Prigozhin and Belarussian President Aleksandr Lukashenko, who intervened in the dispute.

 

In the days following the June 23 mutiny by soldiers of the Russian private military firm Wagner Group, German intelligence agencies were publicly criticized for allegedly failing to warn Berlin about the unprecedented incident. Specifically, it was claimed that Germany’s primary foreign intelligence agency, the Federal Intelligence Service (BND), did not issue an actual warning about the mutiny until Saturday —a full 12 hours after the first clashes had erupted between Wagner mercenaries and forces loyal to the Russian Ministry of Defense.

Much of the criticism came from the ranks of the center-left German Social Democratic Party (SPD), which is the primary political party behind the government of German Chancellor Olaf Scholz. However, criticism also came from the Green Party, which supports Scholz’s administration, and the liberal center-right Free Democratic Party (FDP), which also supports Scholz’s government. The criticism intensified after June 28, when, during a live television interview, Chancellor Scholz appeared to confirm speculation that the BND had left his administration in the dark about the Wagner mutiny until it was too late.

Late last week, however, a joint investigation by two of Germany’s most respected public television broadcasters, the Hamburg-based NDR and the Cologne-based WDR, concluded that the BND had been far more informed about the Wagner mutiny than its critics have claimed. The investigation concluded that, not only did the BND have foreknowledge of the mutiny nearly a week before it materialized, but that it was able to listen-in to the frantic telephone conversations between Prigozhin and Belarussian President Lukashenko, as the latter tried to dissuade the Wagner leader from storming the Russian capital with his heavily armed band of mercenaries.

According to the NDR-WDR report, the BND had been able to hack into Wagner’s internal communications system up for over a year. However, its operation was betrayed by “Carsten L.”, a German intelligence officer who was arrested late last year for spying for Russia. However, the German spy service was able to continue to monitor the internal affairs of Wagner through other sources and had access to channels of information within Wagner in the months leading up to the mutiny. Thus, according to the report, the BND had “vague indications of an imminent uprising by Wagner” about a week prior to June 23.

However, the agency was unsuccessful in verifying these indications through other sources, including its foreign counterpart agencies. For this reason, it chose not to notify the German Chancellery in concrete terms.

Nevertheless, the BND did issue a warning on Friday evening, a few hours before the Wagner mutiny began. The warning was issued a full day prior to the takeover of Wagner’s armed takeover of the Russian armed forces’ operational headquarters in Rostov, which occurred on Saturday. The two state broadcasters reportedly reached out to the BND for confirmation of the report’s findings. However, a BND spokesperson declined to comment on the matter, saying simply that the BND “generally does not comment publicly on matters relating to intelligence findings or operations”.

Intelnews.org (Estados Unidos)

 



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