The trial of the couple of elite Russian spies who lived in Argentina and Slovenia advances: they face eight years in prison

The trial of the couple of elite Russian spies who lived in Argentina and Slovenia advances: they face eight years in prison
The trial of the couple of elite Russian spies who lived in Argentina and Slovenia advances: they face eight years in prison

Maria Mayer and Ludwig Gisch, the Russian spies with Argentine passports who had settled in Slovenia and were arrested (Infobae)

A Russian spy couple known as María Rosa Mayer Muños and Ludwig Gisch had integrated into the suburban life of Ljubljana, Sloveniafor years, creating a façade like Argentinian expats with online businesses. However, almost everything about them was a carefully crafted lieaccording to testimonies and documents revealed by The Wall Street Journal and who provided new details about the case.

Their true identities are Artem Dultsev and Anna Dultsevasenior officers of the Russian foreign intelligence service SVR. The couple was arrested by the Slovenian authorities in December 2022. It is now expected that in the coming weeks the first sentence in a secret trial against the couple, accused of espionage as “illegals” or agents of deep penetration, two crucial pieces in the shadow war of Vladimir Putin against the West.

The passport of “Ludwig Gisch”, the fake name of Artem Viktorovich Dultsev.

The passport of ‘Maria Rosa Mayer Muños

The arrest occurred after the Slovenian agency SOVA received information from an allied agency. “We work together in the greatest secrecy“, he claimed Vojko VolkSlovenian Secretary of State for International Affairs and National and International Security, which allowed authorities to track his movements and communications.

“They were long-term illegals. “They had a long-term mission trying to infiltrate Slovenia as an entry point to Europe,” he said. Janez Stusekformer head of the Slovenian intelligence agency SOVA.

The spies had built a complex double life in Argentina from 2012 before moving to Slovenia in 2017 as a family with two small children. The joint intelligence investigation revealed falsified documents and the identity theftincluding fraudulent birth and marriage certificates.

In Argentina, Artem Dultsev and Anna Dultseva they arrived from Uruguay and Mexico respectively, quickly obtaining false documents to acquire Argentine nationality. During his stay, the family He lived in the Belgrano neighborhood of Buenos Aires and kept a low profile.

O’Higgins 2191, in the Belgrano neighborhood, where the Russian spies with Argentine passports lived before being detained in Slovenia.

“They were very polite, respectful”he said to WSJ the owner of a delicatessen where the couple bought raw ham and cheese. “They always paid in cash.”

In the South American country the couple got married – although apparently they had already been married previously in Russia – and had their two children.

The Argentine authorities collaborated with Slovenia and Interpol to reveal the true identity of Mayer Muños and Gischcomparing fingerprints that matched the records of the Russian illegals.

Later, in 2017, they moved to Slovenia, where his seemingly normal life covered up his espionage activities. As in Buenos Aires, in its new suburb of Ljubljana The couple also lived a seemingly normal life, paying taxes and sending their children to the British International School.

Majda Kvasa 93-year-old neighbor, pointed out Journal: “They were very reserved, they didn’t even say hello”.

The house in Ljubljana where Ludwig Gisch, Maria Mayer and their two children lived. The parents of the family were Russian spies with Argentine passports (Infobae)

In the Slovenian capital, Artem Dultsev and Anna Dultseva they kept hundreds of thousands of euros in a secret compartment of your refrigerator. Additionally, bank records showed suspicious transactions and a flow of cash intended to maintain his front.

In Sloveniathe couple also founded front companies – an online art gallery and a computer company – while engaging in covert espionage. The investigation showed that they were actually SVR officers and used their residence in Slovenia to carry out operations throughout Europe, traveling to Italy and Croatia, among other countries, communicating with Moscow. The couple’s computers contained hardware to communicate securely with officials in Moscow that was so encrypted that neither the Slovenian nor the American technicians could decipher it.

A photo published by the Art Gallery 5’14 Facebook account that, according to Slovenian authorities, is by Mayer Muños.

The couple’s operations included espionage in the Energy Regulators Cooperation Agency (ACER), an EU body in Ljubljana that became relevant after the invasion of Ukraine.

“We know that they were important and serious agents. It’s like the series The Americans, except in Slovenia,” he said Volkthe Slovenian Secretary of State.

The couple was arrested in raid in December 2022.

Their children, ages 8 and 11, according to court documents, had been warned by their parents that they could be captured one day.

American Wall Street Journal journalist Evan Gershkovich could be traded for spies. (EFE/EPA)

He dismantling this spy network It came in the context of increased scrutiny on Russian agents following the invasion of Ukraine in 2022. After the couple’s arrest in Slovenia, another couple of suspected Russian illegals abruptly abandoned their lives in Athens and Rio de Janeiro after being identified as Maria Tsalla and Ludwig Campos Wittich – also SVR agents. The connected network of Russian agents operated under false identities created at great expense, according to Western intelligence experts.

The case allows us to take an unprecedented look at the operation of the Russia’s covert spy machinery, which Putin has revitalized after the expulsion of hundreds of Russian agents following the invasion of Ukraine. Unlike diplomatic spies, “illegals” create completely false identities, sometimes for years, before infiltrating target countries.

“Illegals are becoming important again for Moscow, especially because the line between espionage and war is becoming almost nonexistent,” he told the WSJ Andrei SoldatovRussian security expert.

The situation has led to a policy review in Europe, with proposals to restrict the movement of Russian embassy workers and tighten restrictions on intelligence staff. Jens Stoltenbergsecretary general of the NATOI affirm that plans are being drawn up to restrict the movements of Russian intelligence personnel on the continent.

Slovenes have also recorded an unusual increase in Russian students at their universities, which They suspect it may be another cover for espionage operations. Eight Russian students were deported in March for spreading pro-Kremlin propaganda and posing as Slovenes on the Internet. In the same month, Russian military attaché Sergei Lemeshev was declared persona non grata for leading a disinformation operation.

Now imprisoned with their children in state custody, Dultsev and Dultseva They face up to eight years in prison. However, they could be exchanged for American prisoners such as Paul Whelan and Evan GershkovichAccording to officials, Wall Street Journal. The Kremlin has already expressed interest in recovering them.

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