Trial Underway for Alleged Russian ‘Sleeper’ Spies in Germany
Thomas Niedermueller/Getty Images(STUTTGART, Germany) — A married pair of alleged ‘sleeper’ spies went on trial in Germany Tuesday, accused of spying for Russia for more than two decades — while living a quiet middle-class life and raising a daughter who had no idea of her parents’ true identities.
The middle-aged couple, still known only by their aliases, Andreas and Heidrun Anschlag, denied the charges in court Tuesday in Stuttgart. Their daughter Maria, now in her 20s, has not been charged.
In a page out of a Cold War novel, the Russian couple moved to West Germany in the late 1980s posing as Austrian nationals of Latin American descent. They are accused of transferring information on NATO, European and German security policies to the Soviet and then Russian intelligence service. As part of their alleged cover, Andreas, who claimed to be in his early 50s, worked as an engineer and Heidrun, in her late 40s, played tennis with local women. For their services, they allegedly collected 100,000 Euros a year in salary from the Russian government.
Their last alleged caper was the recruitment of a Dutch Foreign Ministry official, who reportedly sold them secret documents on NATO operations for $96,500, according to the German newspaper Die Welt.
The couple was arrested in October 2011. When the German security agents burst into their home in Marburg, Mrs. Anschlag was reportedly seated at her desk in front of a wireless radio transmitter that was receiving encoded messages. Andreas Anschlag was arrested at the couple’s second home in Balingen.
The arrest reportedly came on a tip from the same mole who tipped off U.S. security services to the Russian spy sleeper cell that included Anna Chapman and nine others in 2010, according to Die Welt.
Anna Chapman, a young attractive Russian national residing in New York, pleaded guilty to a charge of conspiracy to act as an agent of a foreign government and was deported from the United States in July 2010 in a spy exchange.
Prosecutors believe the Anschlags were preparing to leave Germany and head back to Russia, perhaps because the Russian government was concerned that the discovery of the Chapman ring would lead to their exposure as well. Andreas Anschlag had left his job and talked of moving to Eastern Europe. More than 30,000 Swiss francs and 35,000 Euros were found in their residence at the time of their arrest.
The Anschlags are being represented by Munich attorney Horst-Dieter Potschke who defended accused KGB and Stasi agents in the 1970s and 1980s, according to German media. If found guilty, the couple face up to 10 years in prison.
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