MOSCOW, July 15 (RIA Novosti) – Moscow is holding talks with Berlin over the possible exchange of a married couple convicted in Germany earlier this month of being Russian intelligence agents, a newspaper report said on Monday.
A German court found the couple, known by their aliases Andreas and Heidrun Anschlag, guilty of spying for Russia and sentenced them to prison terms of 6 1/2 and 5 1/2 years on July 2. Neither of the two admitted the charges, and Russia has not officially confirmed that they worked as its agents.
Kommersant business daily reported Monday, citing the couple's defense lawyer Horst-Dieter Petschke and anonymous sources in the Russian special services, that the couple could be returned to Russia, and that their exchange has been under discussion since the verdict was delivered on July 2.
According to the trial documents, the Anschlags were planted by the Soviet Union's KGB secret service in the former West Germany from 1988, and later worked for its foreign intelligence successor.
The newspaper suggested that Russia’s most likely candidates for the swap are former Federal Security Service (FSB) colonel Valery Mikhailov, sentenced last year to 18 years in jail for passing secret data to the CIA, and Andrei Dumenkov, who was jailed in 2006 for 12 years for attempting to pass data on Russian missile designs to Germany.
Russia last took part in a high-profile spy swap in 2010, when the United States uncovered a dozen Russian sleeper agents. They were exchanged for four men jailed in Russia for spying for the West.