Russia ‘considering spy swap with Germany’

Andreas and Heidrun AnschlagBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | |
The Russian government has allegedly approached Germany with an offer to swap a number of jailed spies, including a couple of Russian sleeper agents sentenced for espionage earlier this month in Stuttgart. Russia’s Kommersant newspaper alleged on Monday that that the Russian intelligence services are pressing the Kremlin for the repatriation of Andreas and Heidrun Anschlag, a married couple who were arrested in Germany in October of 2011. The two were convicted on July 2, 2013, of having spied on Germany since at least 1990 for the Soviet KGB’s First Chief Directorate and its post-Soviet successor organization, the Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR). German federal prosecutors also accuse the couple of document forgery, since their Austrian passports, which they used to enter West Germany from Mexico in 1988 (Andreas) and 1990 (Heidrun) were shown to be counterfeit. In return for the Anschlags, Moscow would be prepared to hand over “at least one spy” convicted in Russia for spying for the West, said Kommersant. Possible candidates would be Andrei Dumenkov, who is currently serving a 12-year sentence for allegedly giving German military intelligence blueprints of Russian missile designs, and Valery Mikhailov, a Russian counterintelligence officer said to be one of the United States Central Intelligence Agency’s “most successful agents [in Russia] in recent years”.  Kommersant quoted an unnamed Russian security source, who said that the Kremlin approached Berlin with the offer for an exchange only after the end of the Anschlags’ trial. The reason was that the Russians anticipated that the court proceedings might reveal how the married couple’s cover was blown. Another source told the paper that the Russian intelligence services were determined to “get our guys out of there”. The article says that the Anschlags’ lawyer, Horst-Dieter Petschke, confirms that the negotiations are taking place, and argues that a spy swap between Russia and Germany could “happen at any moment”. However, the same piece quotes Russian government spokesman Dmitri Peskov as saying that no discussion of a possible spy swap has taken place between the Russian and German heads of state.

11 Responses to Russia ‘considering spy swap with Germany’

  1. Pete says:

    Putin will be most displeased with these contradictory and very public Russian approaches. Not love Gestapo style but an SVR couple for sale.

    Methinks the Germans should only trade one-point-three Russian agents – not two complete ones :)

  2. TFH says:

    Mr. Putin who grew up in intelligence circles has something of a reputation for not leaving spies behind.

    I have no allusions about the morals of the man having personally met one of his former journalist citizens that was beaten to within an inch of his life after criticizing his rule and person in writing.

  3. Paul says:

    I’m surprised that they’re not considering sending Edward Snowden back to the US in exhange for Colonel Alexander Poteyev who gave the Chapman team of illegals to the FBI in return for asylum, to be honest. Perhaps Mr Putin ius softening the US up for the approach?

  4. Pete says:

    @TFH Yes it looks like Putin’s-Russia’s FSB electronic surveillance of its citizens is extreme. People will say of course. But it is something Edward Snowden for balance can generate protest about:

    The FSB has control centers that are connected by cables directly to operators’ computer servers. To monitor particular phone conversations or Internet communications, an FSB agent only has to enter a command into the control center located in the local FSB headquarters. That practice is in place throughout the country.

    That system, known as the Law Enforcement Support System, or SORM, is actually a holdover from the country’s Soviet totalitarian past and was developed by a KGB research institute in the mid-1980s. Recent technological advances have simply been used to fine-tune the system. Now, the SORM-1 system captures telephone and mobile phone communications, SORM-2 intercepts Internet traffic, and SORM-3 collects information from all forms of communication, providing long-term storage of all information and data on subscribers.

    see , June 18 2013

  5. Peter Wallerberger says:

    Like a game of poker Paul – In this case President Puttin has a very,very strong hand and the U.S is trying to maintain a straight face . You may be close to the truth but I’d hazard a guess and say Snowden is worth more than two semi-retired sleepers and a wayward Russian Colonel,
    I’m sure there will other ‘concessions’ granted by the U.S !!

  6. TFH says:

    @Pete, if it is true that China and Russia have had the opportunity to clone Snowdens laptops (still on the fence regarding if they did or if the news are defensive propaganda PR) and they contained info on how to both evade NSA surveillance and copy it, then the latter part is a great evil to the world vs. the good the former could do. Instead of one big country spying on its own and the world with frightening efficiency there will be three.

  7. Pete says:

    @TFH Russians are very businesslike especially when it comes to their own security. They’d see Edward as a potential threat liable to get Russian human rights people worked up. On the other hand the contents of Edward’s laptops would be an asset.

    The Russian line may well have been/is/will be: “If you Edward want even temporary sanctuary in our country let us download copies of your laptop hard-drives and of course give us the passwords. We know you have squirreled away documents elsewhere in the world – with the Guardian? – so give us the passwords and location of the squirreled sources as well.”

    I’m not up with the technology but the Russians might be able to download copies totally without Edward’s or the Guardian’s knowledge.

    There would be a great deal of damage control going on at the NSA in terms of changing procedures – in an attempt to make the Russian advantage temporary.


  8. Pete says:

    @Paul and Peter

    I don’t think the US would do a swap of an unwilling Colonel Poteyev, as this might make future defectors hesitant to go over to the US, including the pool of SVR illegals who can be expected to be sleeping or active in Canada and the US.


  9. Paul says:

    Pete, Surely it depends on how much the US want Snowden and how much Russia wants Poteyev.
    I take your point about the influence upon other defectors but at the end of the day a post-swap news release stating Poteyev was willing and asked to be sent would take care of that as would a release about Snowden in the Russian press.

    But illegals? Why would that affect their sense of duty?

  10. Pete says:

    Re my comment above anticipating what the NSA might do “There would be a great deal of damage control going on at the NSA in terms of changing procedures”


    Basically a two man rule may be of little use if one “man” lends his key (USB or remembered code number?) to another to save time, to work late etc. Simultaneous “turns of the keys” would ensure lending doesn’t nullify the security measure.

    Also to be avoided are non-codes. For example – as publically admitted — at one stage of the Cold War US launch codes (at one level in the chain) were “0000”.

    More than two keys might also be handy – especially for databases holding US allies’ “crown jewels”.


  11. Pete says:


    America would want to be seen as a safe haven for Russian and Chinese intelligence officers, including illegals, who carry valuable information – including information in their heads.

    The Snowden issue is a different matter. The Russians have already said they don’t want him in their country – except maybe a few months.

    But yeah, if the US wants Snowden enough (and if it looks like he may be in Russia for years) the US might negotiate a swap offer – more likely with a Russian agent willing to go to Russia.


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