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Russia

Russian Couple's Spy Story Baffles All, Daughter Included

Who are you?
Who are you?
Elena Chernenko, Vladislav Trifonov and Ivan Safronov

They were sentenced to six-and-a-half and five-and-a-half years in prison in Germany, respectively. But their lawyer says that Andreas and Heidrun Anschlag are counting on a swift departure for Russia, as part of a spy exchange.

The trial of this couple ultimagely convicted of spying for Moscow started last January, and included a total of 36 witnesses who helped fill in different holes in the case. Then Anschlag's have stayed quiet for nearly the entire proceeding.

Andreas, 55, only spoke once, to go on a tirade about the poor conditions he was being held under, which he called “unworthy of the German government.”

The 52-year-old Heidrun, instead, broke into tears when the court presented the birth certificate of Anna, the couple’s 22-year-old daughter, as evidence. Anna Anschlag was born in Germany -- and clearly had no idea about her parents’ double life.

In giving her verdict, the judge stressed the fact that so many questions had remained unanswered. “We don’t know where they were born, what their real names are. Were they even a married couple before? Why did they start working in the special services? We don’t have any answers to these questions,” she said.

According to the evidence presented during the trial, the Anschlags were identified by the names of Pete and Tina, but in case of an emergency evacuation, they were supposed to call the Russian embassy and identify themselves as Sasha and Olga Rost.

Witnesses theorized that the Anschlags had come to Germany via Austria in the 1980s, under orders from the KGB. They had Austrian documents, probably acquired by bribing a passport official. Andreas Anschlag’s country of birth was listed as Argentina, and his wife’s country of birth was Peru -- which is how they explained their accented German.

After the fall of the Soviet Union, they continued working for the spy service. According to the investigators, Andreas and Heidrun Anschlag received respectively 4,300 and 4,000 euros per month, and had saved up nearly 700,000 euros. German law enforcement was never able to find the money.

The Anschlags never travelled in other parts of Germany, but in every other way their life didn’t seem to be any different from that of an ordinary German. At the moment of the arrest, Andreas worked for a branch of the Schunk Group, an international technology company. Heidrun was a stay-at-home mom.

There was only proof of espionage during the 2008-2011 period. “We have only uncovered the tip of the iceberg,” the judge said.

But that was enough to call the Russian couple “a serious threat to the national interests and security of Germany.”

Swap time?

One of the Anschlag’s informants was the Dutch diplomat Raymond Poeteray, who passed the couple hundreds of documents classified "Secret" or "Top Secret". The documents were about reforms in NATO, plans for a missile defense system, operations in Afghanistan and Libya and other sensitive military issues. The Anschlags paid him 72,000 euros for his trouble. Last April, Poeteray was sentenced to 12 years in prison by a Dutch court.

The Germans found about about the Anschlags thanks to the FBI, which had uncovered a network of Russian spies in 2010. At that time, 10 of the Russians arrested in the United States were exchanged for four Russian citizens who had been spying for the West -- before they stood trial.

The Germans were prepared to exchange the Anschlags for two spies held by Russia before the trial as well, and the Berlin-based daily Die Welt reported that the topic was discussed by Vladimir Putin and Angela Merkel during several face-to-face meetings, but that Moscow ultimately rejected the exchange.

The Russian President’s press secretary denies any knowledge of this report, and says that the two leaders had never discussed exchanging spies.

According to a source in the Russian special services, Russia wanted a trial to go forth in the hopes of finding out how much the FBI had told the Europeans.

It is still not clear who the Anschlags might be traded for, although one likely candidate might be Valerii Mikhailov, who was sentenced to 18 years in prison for selling secrets to the United States.

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Geopolitics

Minerals And Violence: A Papal Condemnation Of African Exploitation, Circa 2023

Before heading to South Sudan to continue his highly anticipated trip to Africa, the pontiff was in the Democratic Republic of Congo where he delivered a powerful speech, in a country where 40 million Catholics live.

Minerals And Violence: A Papal Condemnation Of African Exploitation, Circa 2023
Pierre Haski

-Analysis-

PARIS — You may know the famous Joseph Stalin quote: “The Pope? How many divisions has he got?” Pope Francis still has no military divisions to his name, but he uses his voice, and he does so wisely — sometimes speaking up when no one else would dare.

In the Democratic Republic of Congo (the former Belgian Congo, a region plundered and martyred, before and after its independence in 1960), Francis has chosen to speak loudly. Congo is a country with 110 million inhabitants, immensely rich in minerals, but populated by poor people and victims of brutal wars.

That land is essential to the planetary ecosystem, and yet for too long, the world has not seen it for its true value.

The words of this 86-year-old pope, who now moves around in a wheelchair, deserve our attention. He undoubtedly said what a billion Africans are thinking: "Hands off the Democratic Republic of the Congo! Hands off Africa! Stop choking Africa: It is not a mine to be stripped or a terrain to be plundered!"

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