Greece’s intelligence services uncovered a Russian spy who, they say, was operating in the country since 2018 in “deep cover”.
According to the National Intelligence Service (EYP), the foreign national named “Irina A. S.” had gained Greek citizenship and an identity card and was working as a photographer. She was also the owner of a handicraft store in Athens. She was living in Pagrati, close to the center of the Greek capital.
The woman was presenting herself as “Maria Tsalla.” The statement by EYP does not say what the nationality of the spy was, but later reports suggest she was Russian and that her real name is Irina Alexandrova Smireva. She returned to her country in January.
EYP says her exposure started after the detection of a third country’s attempt to gain access to the personal data of deceased Greek citizens.
It adds that “Maria Tsalla’s” activity would not have been limited to Greece. Being an EU citizen she would have been able to travel and work in many European countries.
The spy was very active on all social media and especially on Facebook. On her profile, there are hundreds of pictures of cats, and she reproduces ads from people who give cats up for adoption. In essence, she has spent five years building a profile in order to infiltrate various communities.
However, two things are striking. One is that even though she has a lot of photos on her social media profiles, in almost all of them she covers her face, either with her knitting or with a camera, and the second is that she preferred to pay her house rent in cash, avoiding banking transactions.
Russian spy in Greece was an “illegal”, EYP says
EYP’s full statement follows:
“Maria T.”: A case of espionage uncovered by EYP
Greece’s National Intelligence Service (EYP) has made an important disclosure of the modus operandi and infiltration techniques used by foreign intelligence services in Greece.
More specifically, systematic investigations conducted by EYP, further to information it had collected, demonstrated that a female person under the name “Maria T.”‘ had, for the past few years, pretended to be Greek and worked as a photographer and owner of a craft and knitting supplies shop in Athens. Although she had Greek citizenship and held an identity card since 2018, she was, in reality, the foreign national “Irina A.S.” who has been operating in our country under “deep cover”.
The countdown towards her exposure started after the detection of a third country’s attempt to gain access to the personal data of deceased Greek citizens, an internationally known and established practice the intelligence services of a specific foreign country use for the creation of a special category of spies called “illegals”.
The aforementioned intelligence services recruit and train “illegals”, with the aim of placing them in target countries, in order to carry out spying activity on behalf of their country. To protect their real identity they operate under “deep cover”, which they create by falsifying personal documents and using stillbirth certificates or death certificates. From the moment of their settlement abroad the “illegals” live and act on the basis of the fabricated story created for them, so as to conceal their mission.
“ Maria T’s” profile and activity mark her out as an “illegal”.
The case that has been just disclosed by EYP is a telling example of the way of thinking and acting of the specific foreign intelligence services: in order to engineer the identity and profile of “T.” they have worked methodically for many years, skillfully exploiting people, procedures and institutions so that the third country citizen “Irina” eventually lives and identifies as the Greek citizen “ Maria”, thus deceiving even those closest to her in Greece, who were obviously unaware of her real identity.
It is clear that “T’s” activity would not have been limited to Greek territory. Being an EU citizen she would have been able to travel and work freely in Europe. That is why EYP’s success bears a dimension that goes beyond national borders and touches all European countries.
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