Russian spies with Argentine passports imprisoned in Europe could be sentenced in the coming weeks

Russian spies with Argentine passports imprisoned in Europe could be sentenced in the coming weeks
Russian spies with Argentine passports imprisoned in Europe could be sentenced in the coming weeks

Hear

María Rosa Mayer Muños She said that together with her husband, Ludwig Gisch, They had left Argentina with their two children after an assault in Buenos Aires. Thus, they said, they ended up in Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia. That was part of the made up story of this marriage with an Argentine passport who lived in the Federal Capital, and that he was arrested in that European capital at the end of 2022 for his espionage work for Russia.

In Slovenia, Mayer Muñoz ran a virtual art gallery and Gisch ran a technology startup. Although their real names were Anna Valerevna Dultseva and Artem Viktorovich Dultsev, and actually worked for Russia’s foreign intelligence service (SVR), as reported by THE NATION.

Now, according to officials and court documents cited by the Wall Steert Journal, after more than 18 months in a Slovenian prison, “A classified trial is expected to make its first ruling in the coming weeks on the pair accused of carrying out espionage as ‘illegals’ or deep penetration agents, two crucial cogs in Vladimir Putin’s rapidly expanding shadow war with the West.” .

The Argentine documentation exhibited by Gisch

According to the New York newspaper, Slovenia’s espionage laws allow a maximum sentence of eight years, and authorities say the couple could be released after four for good behavior. Furthermore, both could be part of a potential prisoner exchange agreement with western countries, which could also include the journalist from The Wall Street Journal, Evan Gershkovichaccused of being a spy by Moscow.

According to investigators, the fake Argentine marriage used Slovenia, a member state of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the European Union, as a base to travel to other parts of Europe without needing a visa and to communicate with Moscow in a country with limited counterintelligence capability. Or at least, that’s what they thought.

“We know that they were important and serious agents,” said Vojko Volk, State Secretary for International Affairs and National and International Security of Slovenia. “It is like The Americans, but in Slovenia,” he added, referring to the classic American series about undercover Russian spies.

Building where the Russian spies who were arrested in Europe lived. Calle O Higgins 2191, Belgrano, CABARicardo Pristupluk

The story, compiled The Wall Street Journalbegan with a bus trip in 2012 from Uruguay to Argentina, “where the couple began a decade-long effort to construct a completely false identity.”

According to official documents, Gisch entered Argentina as a tourist from Uruguay and his wife, shortly after, from Mexico. “Almost immediately, the couple began gathering documents, many of them fraudulent, to obtain citizenship. Gisch claimed he was an Austrian citizen born in Namibia to an Argentine mother, giving him a fast track to citizenship. “Mayer Muños said that she was Mexican and presented a birth certificate saying that she was born in Greece,” the note mentions.

Once settled in Argentina, they lived in an apartment in a tower in Belgrano and opened accounts in local banks. In 2012, Gisch applied for Argentine citizenship and Mayer Muños applied for it a year later. In 2013 and 2015, they had their children; first Sophie and then Daniel. In 2015 too They got married civilly, with two Colombians as witnesses.

One year after the marriage, a modification was made to the marriage certificate: They changed the nationality of Mayer Muños’ mother from Austrian to Mexican. The thing is, the family was about to move to Europe, and background checks conducted by the Austrian government could unmask the lie.

An image from social networks of Ludwig Gisch and María Rosa Mayer Muñoz, with their children

In 2017, the couple emptied their Argentine bank accounts and traveled to Slovenia, where they entered with a tourist visa. In 2019 they received Slovenian residence permits, a prior step to also obtaining their citizenship.

On February 24, 2022, the day Russian President Vladimir Putin launched his invasion of Ukraine, the couple was in Argentina, processing an express passport before immediately returning to Slovenia via Frankfurt.

Months later, Slovenia’s spy agency received an alert: They had to investigate Gisch and Mayer Muños. After exhaustive work on both continents and with authorities from different countries, On December 5, 2022, Gisch and Mayer Muños were arrested at their home.

According to the investigation, on their computers there were a hardware to communicate securely with those in charge in Moscow that it was so encrypted that neither Slovenian nor American technicians could decipher it; and in his refrigerator there was a secret compartment with hundreds of thousands of euros in banknotes.

The image of the Gisch-Mayer Muñoz couple’s family home in Slovenia, published in The Guardian

His two children, now 8 and 11 years old, according to their birth certificates in Argentina, were placed in the care of the State and transferred to another school.

Shortly after the arrest, Russia acknowledged that the couple worked for the SVR and said it wanted them back, but the intelligence agency rejected the request.

After the arrest of Mayer Muños and Gisch, Another pair of alleged Russian “illegals” (undercover spies) – a woman and a man with Greek and Brazilian passports – abruptly abandoned their lives in Athens and Rio de Janeiro. They were called back to Moscow by officials who feared a network collapse after arrests in Slovenia, officials said.

Other spies have been exposed across Europe since the invasion of Ukraine, from Norway to Bulgaria, in the largest takedown of its kind since the FBI’s “Operation Ghost Stories” in 2010, which captured 10 Russian spies in the United States, the inspiration for The Americans.

According to The Wall Street Journal, The “illegals” program, or undercover spies, was revitalized by Putin. “These shifting spies are now becoming a more important tool for the Kremlin after some 700 suspected Russian intelligence officers operating under diplomatic cover were expelled from around the world following the invasion of Ukraine,” says the note.

“Illegals are becoming increasingly important to Moscow, especially as the line between espionage and war is becoming almost non-existent,” said Andrei Soldatov, a Russian security expert who has spent years studying Russian spy networks. Moscow.

THE NATION

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