Friday, July 05, 2013

Russian Spy Couple Sentenced

Andreas and Heidrun Anschlag during their trial.
Image: Spiegel On-line International

Last Tuesday, the Stuttgart Higher Court tried two Russian spies, caught red-handed in October last year in Germany. Andreas Anschlag received six-and-a-half years imprisonment. His wife Heidrun was sentenced to five-and-a-half years. During the trial, the accused admitted that they worked for Russia.

The couple operated as so-called Illegals. With false identities and under the guise of fictitious lives, they operated deep cover in Germany for more than 20 years. They also used the codenames Pit and Tina in covert shortwave communications but their real names are still unknown. Last year, GSG-9 counter-terrorism and special operations forces raided their home and caught Heidrun Anschlag whilst receiving encrypted messages on a special shortwave receiver.

One of the most notable pieces of evidence during the recent trial was a seemingly innocuous hard-drive in a laptop bag. In reality, the device is a state-of-the-art satellite transmitter that enabled them to communicate with Russian spy satellites, crossing German skies at regular intervals. It's the first time that such high-tech satellite espionage equipment has been discovered and several intelligence agencies already expressed their interest and requested permission to examine the device.

Now that the court case has ended, there might be a new exchange of spies. Possible candidate, on request of the United States, is Valery Mikhailov, a retired Russian FSB counter-intelligence officer. In June 2012, Mikhailov was charged on spying more than a decade for the CIA and received 18 years of imprisonment.

After the cases of 10 Russian SVR illegals in 2010, 11 Russians who illegally exported U.S. high-tech electronics in 2012 for use in the Russian defense industry, and currently NSA contractor and whistle blower Edward Snowden still stuck on a Moscow airport, there's plenty of behind-the-curtain diplomacy to do. Now, the Russians aren't the only spooks playing abroad, as the Ryan Christopher Fogle case of last May and the high-tech spy rock in 2006 showed. Or how the Cold War spy game flourishes as never before.

More about the couple's trial is found at Spiegel On-line International. More details on their long-time spying career is also found on my posts on their arrest in 2011 and their indictment.

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