They called themselves Andreas and Heidrun Anschlag and for more than 20 years, the unobtrusive Russian couple lived in Germany spying against the West - first for the Soviet Union and then for Vladimir Putin's Russia.
But today, Sascha and Olga - prosecutors and police admitted that they only knew the couple's first names and had been unable to find out their full identities - were sentenced to a combined total of twelve years imprisonment by a Stuttgart court. They were convicted of running an espionage operation against NATO, the European Union and Germany which outlived the Cold War.
“We have only scratched the tip of an iceberg which grew over a period of over 20 years,” the presiding judge told the court as the pair - both in their fifties - were sentenced.
The court heard how Olga was caught “red handed” by German counter espionage agents in 2011 while she was receiving messages from her Russian spymasters on a short wave radio receiver at her German home. State prosecutors said the evidence against the couple was irrefutable.
The two agents were found to have recruited a Dutch diplomat in the Hague who supplied them with top secret NATO and EU documents downloaded onto USB sticks which they subsequently supplied to the Russians. The information included top secret details about NATO missile defence systems and its operations in Libya, Afghanistan and Kosovo.
The couple used so called “dead letter boxes” - in reality holes in the ground in woods near the former West German capital, Bonn - to conceal the USB sticks. The material was later retrieved up by staff from the Russian consulate and dispatched to Moscow. State prosecutors said more than 500 documents were sent to Russia.
The couple refused to speak during nearly all of their six month trial. Sascha broke his silence only once to complain about the conditions in Germany's Stammheim prison where he is being held. “It is a s*** hole and a disgrace for Germany,” he told the court.
Legal experts said the pair could expect to see their sentences cut by a least a third for good behaviour. They also faced the possibility of being exchanged for German agents currently being held in Russia.