An art gallery, a start-up and Argentine passports: the story of the elite Russian spies detained in Slovenia

Maria Mayer and Ludwig Gisch, the Russian spies with Argentine passports who had settled in Slovenia and were arrested (Infobae)

A yellow house, with weathered red tiles and a brown gate. Address: Primožiceva 35. In the garden, an imposing magnolia. The house does not attract attention. It is similar to the others in the neighborhood Črnucein the suburban Ljubljanathe capital of Slovenia. Inside, a typical family -mother, father and two children- and an ordinary life, not very flashy. She, Maria Rosa Mayer Munos, dedicated his hours to the online sale of works of art. He, Ludwig GischInstead, he had a start up of technology called DSM&IT that was dedicated to giving a software to organize your customers’ mailboxes. His little ones led a school life like any other child in the neighborhood, only it made it difficult for them to learn the language quickly.

They had arrived at this new destination in 2017, with the enthusiasm and apparent doubts of any immigrant.

The story that they both repeated over and over again each time they asked him why they had chosen that destination, was that they had tired of the insecure life in the Argentina. “The streets are rough there”, they told their neighbors, without specifying much more. It was not necessary: ​​just googling news about Latin America, insecurity is one of the most prominent issues. The address they had registered in Argentina was O’Higgins 2191in the Buenos aires city.

the english journal Guardian interviewed a dozen neighbors. Everyone had the same concept about these Argentines spoke Spanish at home and some English for the rest. “they were kind”, “nice”. Nothing to suspect. Until one afternoon in the first days of last December, an operative broke into the house, carried out a thorough inspection and arrested them. They also seized a large sum of money. The children, unaware of what was really happening, were transferred to a social care unit.

The house in Ljubljana where Ludwig Gisch, Maria Mayer and their two children lived.  The parents of the family were Russian spies with Argentine passports (Infobae)
The house in Ljubljana where Ludwig Gisch, Maria Mayer and their two children lived. The parents of the family were Russian spies with Argentine passports (Infobae)

Disturbing information began to leak: both were part of a Kremlin spy network. Russians with Argentine passports. “Ljubljana sources told this week Guardian that ‘Maria and Ludwig’ were actually elite Russian spies known as ‘outlaws’. The arrests came after Slovenia received a tip from a foreign intelligence service”, notes the British newspaper. The suspicion of the Slovenian authorities go further. Reserved sources indicated that it would be two members of the SVRthe foreign intelligence service of Russia.

would have chosen Slovenia for a simple reason: little counterintelligence and easy access -without bothersome borders- to the rest of the European countries. In fact, its activity took place more outside the country than inside it. MayerShe was even a constant traveler according to her social networks. She did it under the guise of promoting her art gallery and her online sales. Suspicion about his contacts with other spies in Europe grows. As his wife Gisch he also used his work to travel. His Argentine passport, however, had a peculiarity: he said that he was born in Namibia in 1984.

Last February, when the news first broke, the Slovenian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Tanja Fajónconfirmed that the two foreigners accused of espionage and detained “are members of the Russian secret services“and suspected of having acted”against the national interests of Slovenia”. In the last few days he added more information that was already obvious by now: “they were not argentine”.

The Argentine passport of the Russian spy Ludwig Gisch with which he entered Slovenia.
Maria Rosa Mayer Munos, the Russian spy with Argentine nationality who went with her family to Slovenia and had an art gallery as a front. She was arrested last December together with her husband, also a Russian agent, at her house in Ljubljana, the country’s capital.

The “illegal” agents are those who are not informed by the embassies, as is the case of Mayer and Gischwho operated without visible ties to Moscow. They are trained for years to pass themselves off as foreigners and then they are sent to other countries to penetrate different structures. Not even their own children usually know that their parents are Russian..

In April 2022, Slovenia – a member of the European Union and NATO – expelled 33 Russians who worked at the country’s embassy in Ljubljana after the invasion of Ukraine by Moscow. Other countries carried out the same expulsions of “diplomats” after the bloody attack ordered by Vladimir Putin.

The suspects are members of a foreign intelligence service, who used illegally obtained foreign identity documents to live and work in Slovenia under false identities and secretly gather information.”, he indicated to the media Drago Menegalijaspokesman for the Slovenian police.

But the story does not end there. Hours after they were arrested – with sums of money suspected of being used to pay other espionage agents – the Kremlin it reportedly contacted the Slovenian authorities to recognize the nationality of its members and try to prevent the arrest from being made public. However, they were unable to do anything. Now, according to those same sources of information, Moscow would be in ultra-secret negotiations with Western powers to exchange the spies for prisoners who could be of interest and who were in Russian hands.

The two remain in custody awaiting trial. Those who were able to see them up close after the arrests indicated that they behave like professionals, stoic. If found guilty, they could be sentenced to eight years in prison. “They have taken it stoically. It is clear that they are professionals. But they are not talking. Now we will see how important these people are for Russia”, pointed out an anonymous source.

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