A German court has jailed a married couple for spying for the Russian secret services for more than 20 years in one of the country’s biggest espionage cases since the Cold War.
The pair, identified only by the code names Andreas and Heidrun Anschlag, were planted in the former West Germany from 1988 by the Soviet Union’s KGB and later worked for its successor the SVR, the court heard.
The husband was jailed for six and a half years and his wife for five and a half years by the higher regional court in the southwestern city of Stuttgart.
The couple had obtained NATO and EU political and military secrets, focused especially on the relationship of NATO and the EU with Eastern European and Central Asian countries.
They had posed as Austrian citizens who were born and grew up in South America and were living what prosecutors called a “middle-class existence” as a cover for their clandestine activities.
“Like wheels in a clockwork, for better or worse, they were dependent on each other for the success of the mission,” said presiding judge Sabine Roggenbrod.
Andreas Anschlag studied engineering and worked in the auto industry while Heidrun was a housewife. Even their daughter had no idea about their double lives, media reports have said.
The couple allegedly passed on documents they obtained from a Dutch foreign ministry official between 2008 and 2011.
They left the documents in “dead-letter boxes”, such as under certain trees, from where they were picked up by employees of the Russian consulate general in the western city of Bonn, according to the federal prosecutor.
They communicated with Russia via short-wave radio, text messages sent on a satellite phone and hidden messages in comments in YouTube videos under agreed names, the court heard.
The defendants, whose alias surname means “attack” in German, had declined to confirm any details about their identity, but their defence lawyer said they had Russian citizenship.
“The court could not uncover your true identities,” Judge Roggenbrod told the two accused. “We don’t know where you were born or your real names.”
But she stressed: “The court is convinced that the accused knew right until the end exactly which master they served and for what purpose.”
According to the Federal Prosecutor’s Office, light could only be shed on the last three years of their covert activities.
Germany’s domestic intelligence services discovered the couple after receiving a tip from the FBI in the United States, which had unmasked Russian SVR agents on its own soil.
Influential news weekly Der Spiegel dubbed the trial “one of the most spectacular cases since the end of the Cold War.” [AFP]