Russia’s leak of a conversation by German military officers involving details of British operations on the ground in Ukraine is “worrying on a number of levels”, MP Tobias Ellwood, former chairman of the Commons Defence Committee said.

German military officers discussed support for Ukraine, including the potential use of Taurus missiles, in the recording which was leaked by Russian state media on Friday.

It comes as a debate has been taking place in Germany about whether it should supply the missiles.

Germany’s defence minister Boris Pistorius has described the leak of the conversation as part of Russia’s “information war” against the West, and said it is about “undermining our resolve”.

Tobias Ellwood MP.
Tobias Ellwood highlighted how the situation is playing out politically in Germany (Yui Mok/PA)

Downing Street said investigating the leak was “a matter for Germany”, which remained “a very close Nato ally”.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman told reporters “it is clearly in the Kremlin’s interest to propagate misinformation” and “we should not fall into that trap”.

“We do have to treat anything coming out of the Kremlin with caution. As we know, Russia has a tendency to spread misinformation and disinformation and clearly it is in their interests to sow disunity amongst allies who are seeking to support the armed forces of Ukraine.”

While No 10 was keen to stress Western unity, it is likely that stern conversations will take place with Berlin behind the scenes.

The spokesman declined to comment on UK operations in Ukraine, beyond saying there was a “small number of troops” providing protection for British diplomats and training for Ukrainian forces.

Asked on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme what the most troubling aspect was, Mr Ellwood said: “There’s many aspects of this – at the recent Munich Security Conference attended by the Chancellor Olaf Scholz, and indeed President Zelensky, who was begging for weapon systems, the very public frustration about Germany not matching Britain in sending long range air launch missiles was second only to the frustration in delays over the Americans not sending their 60 billion (dollar) package of support that’s got caught up in congress.

“So this interception and the leak of military planning discussion is worrying on a number of decibel levels.

“Firstly, why the obvious, why wasn’t basic concept protocols followed? But it also revealed a tension, I think, between senior German military who want to see Taurus dispatched and the German Chancellor, who seems increasingly focused on his political survival rather than what’s best for the continent. And it’s also how this plays out in Germany.”

He added: “You can see the tensions that are playing out in capital cities as to what we should do next in Ukraine because the tide does seem to be turning unless they receive greater support. They’ve not received the F-16s, they’re not receiving artillery shells that they need, and they’re not receiving the long range weapon systems.”

He said that Germany “did respond well” after the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, but now “we’re seeing other factors coming into play”.

Ukrainian serviceman fires artillery
Ukrainian servicemen of the 28th Separate Mechanised Brigade fires a 122mm mortar towards Russian positions at the front line, near Bakhmut, Donetsk (AP)

Mr Ellwood added: “Unlike here, where the longer term strategic dangers to our economy and our security of Putin winning are constantly spelled out by the Prime Minister by the UK Government, and that helps retain public support for the scale of military systems, in Germany, in contrast, it’s still seen by the German public as a war in Ukraine, not part of a wider confrontation that Putin is seeking to have with the West as Putin moves his economy to a war footing and actually becomes arguably more powerful than Stalin.”

Mr Ellwood added that “given the intensity of Russia’s spying on Germany and others, they probably have not learned anything that they didn’t already guess”.

But that “does not prevent some serious conversations taking place in the diplomatic corridors between Germany and Britain and indeed Nato, as well as to why this happened in the first place”.

Meanwhile, former Army chief Lord Dannatt has said the German air force officers who were caught talking on the unencrypted call should be “censured pretty heavily”.

He told Times Radio: “I was very disappointed to read that story. I think the German air force officers who were talking on an open line, frankly, they should be censured pretty heavily.

“They are suggesting that there are British people in Ukraine. It’s not for you or me to comment on that. We have provided a lot of equipment to them. We provided a lot of training.

“As far as I’m concerned, I think what they were talking about was whether they would or wouldn’t supply a German system akin to our Storm Shadow. I suspect that we do our training on Storm Shadow, either in this country or in Poland or elsewhere. It’s not for you or I to confirm or deny whether there are British military in Ukraine.”

Lord Dannatt said he would like defence spending to increase by up to 4%, but he does not expect Chancellor Jeremy Hunt to do so in Wednesday’s Budget.

He added that there is a “very strong case to say we should be giving the Ukrainians more, to support them more”.