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The incredible story of Russian spies detained in Slovenia with Argentine passports


Maria Mayer and Ludwig Gisch were arrested in a large operation in Ljubljana last December. Because of their importance, Moscow wants to negotiate them.

 European governments are dismantling Russian spy networks Idafe Martín.

Brussels Many spy movies were made with weaker scripts.

Last December, Slovenian agents mounted a special forces operation

to arrest Maria Mayer and Ludwig Gisch in the capital of their country, Ljubljana,

an apparently quiet couple in their forties, with two children, who had arrived in the country in 2017, they said. to their friends, fleeing from the insecurity of the Argentine streets.

Maria set up an online art gallery in Slovenia and thanks to her activity she traveled all over Europe to take her gallery's works to art fairs.

Ludwig had set up a tech startup.

They were doing well, they had a nice house and they were integrated into the country

, where they were making friends.

Slovenia, emerged from the collapse of the former Yugoslavia, is a small and quiet country, which has already surpassed Spain or Italy in terms of living standards.

After the police operation, the couple was locked up and incommunicado and the children, who would not be aware of the real identity of their parents, were placed in the care of social services.

The couple had not even had the right to a lawyer during their detention.

In the house and an office that they had rented, the agents found "enormous" amounts of money.

The amount of money found may be due, the Slovenian authorities believe, to the fact that the couple could be in charge of paying other Russian agents.

María Mayer traveled frequently to promote her gallery Art Gallery 5´14.

The Argentine passport

Last January the Slovenian press reported that the security services had arrested a couple of Russian spies

thanks to information received from the secret service of another country


That Russian couple was the one made up of the supposedly Argentines María Mayer and Ludwig Gisch.

Argentines or Russians?

Last week, Slovenian Foreign Minister Tanja Fajon assured that the couple is of Russian nationality, not Argentina, so

their Argentine passports would be false.

Gisch's said he was born in Namibia in 1984. For the Slovenian authorities they are members of a foreign secret service who used foreign identity documents “illegally obtained to live and work in Slovenia under false identities and secretly gather information”.

According to the British newspaper

'The Guardian',

the couple is in custody awaiting trial accused of spying for Russia.

The story of the British newspaper ensures that Moscow recognized to the Slovenian government that the detainees are Russians and that although the Slovenian Justice is officially preparing the trial, they would be two elite agents that Moscow would want back and for whom it would be willing to


a swap in exchange for Westerners imprisoned in Russia.

'The Guardian'

also tells that Mayer and Gisch would be “illegal” elite agents (not registered or posing as diplomats, for example) of the foreign division of the SVR, the former KGB.

People like this had not been arrested since the FBI arrested 10 agents in the United States in 2010.

María Mayer traveled frequently to promote her gallery Art Gallery 5´14.

Why Slovenia?

The country, a small enclave wedged to the east of Italy's northern regions, is relatively minor as an espionage target.

'The Guardian' has a theory.

Like the smallest countries in Europe, Slovenia has a very limited counter-espionage system and the advantages of being part of the European Union, for example to travel around the continent without having to show documentation.

The couple formed by Mayer and Gisch traveled a lot in Europe with the coverage of their jobs and

handled a lot of money in cash.

Neighbors told the Slovenian press and

'The Guardian'

that the couple spoke Spanish at home and English with their contacts, not Slovenian.

If the first month of detention was secret, now the Slovenian authorities extended that period of preventive detention and Chancellor Fajon summoned the Russian ambassador to discuss the case.

No one doubts that Slovenia, with foreign aid, has obtained two very high-level spies.

Argentines with false passports.

Europe detains Russian spies

The start of the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine was the trigger for mass expulsions of Russian diplomats from European countries.

Many of those envoys back to Moscow were, according to the European governments,

people who actually worked for the secret services.

But they were what in the slang is known as "legal", agents in practice known, somehow tolerated.

That was just one part of the Russian spy network in Europe.

The "illegal" part, which includes agents who are not on the radar of the intelligence services of European countries, is beginning to fall now, a year after the start of the war.

The latest case occurred in Poland, with the arrest on Monday of two people whom the Polish government

accuses of working for the Russian secret services.

The Polish Foreign Ministry said, according to an EFE cable, that it had proof of the espionage activities of both detainees.

A few days ago Poland had arrested another nine people for sending information to the Russian secret services and

for preparing "sabotage actions".

The job of these people, according to the Polish government, was to try to prevent supplies (civilian and military) entering Ukraine from the Polish border.

The arrests in Poland are the latest in a list that has been growing in recent days.

One of the most notorious cases was uncovered in August of last year when a group of investigators announced that they had discovered that the woman of German and Peruvian nationality who posed

as María Adela Kuhfeldt Rivera

and who had been intimate with senior NATO military officials at an Italian military base she was actually an agent of the GRU, the Russian military secret service.

The GRU is responsible, as denounced for years by European governments and the bloc's diplomacy, for attacks such as the poisoning of former Russian agents in Europe or cyberattack activities.

Kuhfeldt Rivera was an "illegal," a Russian agent posing as a third-country national who had built her character for years.

In June of last year, with the war already underway, the Netherlands deported a man who had arrived in the country with a Brazilian passport in the name of Viktor Muller Ferreira.

According to the Dutch, he was Sergei Vladimirovich Cherkasov.

His objective was, according to information made public by the Dutch government,

to infiltrate the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

On October 25 of last year, the Norwegian media reported that their secret services had arrested a man,

José Assis Giammaria,

who was posing as a Brazilian academic but was actually a Russian spy.

He worked as a researcher at the Norwegian University of Tromso and according to Hedvig Moe, head of the Police security service (a kind of internal secret service), had been expelled from the country "because he represented a fundamental threat to our national interests."

Before this man was arrested, they had already detained seven Russians suspected of flying drones and taking photographs in areas to which Norway denies access

for military and national security reasons.


look too

The war in Ukraine: the United States, a "hotbed" of Russian spies

How Russia's oligarchs circumvent sanctions a year after the invasion of Ukraine

Source: clarin

All news articles on 2023-03-28

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