‘Spies’ Caught in Germany
Published: October 26, 2011 (Issue # 1680)
The house in Marburg where the suspects were arrested last Tuesday.
MOSCOW — Russian intelligence has come under a new barrage of criticism for using ineffective Cold War-era tactics following the arrest of two suspected deep-cover spies in Germany.
The suspects apparently caught red-handed while listening to 1970s-style encrypted radio messages from Moscow appear to have much in common with the 10 sleeper agents uncovered in the United States last year.
German prosecutors said Friday that a couple living in Marburg, had been arrested on accusations of spying for an unspecified foreign intelligence service, which media identified over the weekend as Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service.
German bloggers identified the suspects as Andreas and Heidrun Anschlag, information also published by Kommersant on Monday.
The couple was said to have operated in Germany for more than 20 years, similar to the agents arrested in the U.S. in June 2010. They were in close contact with Chapman, who has become a national celebrity since returning to Russia in a prisoner swap, Focus magazine reported, quoting unidentified investigators.
A video by the local Oberhessische Presse newspaper showed a bungalow in Michelbach where the two were arrested by masked commandos last Tuesday.
Neighbors said the family, with a grown-up daughter, led an unassuming life since renting the house a year ago, the daily reported.
Steffen Haidinger, a spokesman for the German prosecutor general’s office, refused to comment on the reports, as did spokesman for the Russian Embassy in Berlin, explaining that German authorities had not offered any official information about the case.
Experts expressed bewilderment as to how the German-based couple could have gathered any meaningful information. They pointed out that Marburg, which has a famously left-leaning university, might have served as a recruiting ground for spies during the Cold War, but could hardly be a useful base today.
“This is absurd. There are no U.S. forces or anything else of interest anywhere nearby,” said Alexander Rahr, an analyst with the German Council of Foreign Relations.
But German media reports suggested that the pair was engaged in industrial espionage because Andreas Anschlag worked in an auto components firm.
Research by The St. Petersburg Times also showed that the family used to live not far from the U.S. air bases Rammstein and Bƒchel before moving to Marburg.
Other experts said that working with encrypted radio messages is bizarre in the 21st century, where the Internet offers intelligence agencies far easier and safer communications. Vladislav Belov, a researcher with the European Studies Center and the Moscow State International Relations Institute, noted that the Federal Security Service voiced fears earlier this year that the uncontrolled use of certain e-mail and voice services could threaten national security.
An official in the Foreign Intelligence Service told Izvestia that the couple was part of a group that had effectively retired from the agency.