Two Deep-Cover Russian Spies Led Double Lives In Brazil And Greece. They Mysteriously Vanished This Year.

Two deep-cover Russian spies who were allegedly working for Russian President Vladimir Putin’s intelligence service have vanished recently under mysterious circumstances, according to Greek officials.

One of the alleged spies, known as Gerhard Daniel Campos Wittich, went dark on Jan. 9 after arriving at an airport in Malaysia via taxi. The other, Maria Tsalla, who is believed to be Campos Wittich’s wife, was last heard from at the end of January, when she called her employee in Greece from a number registered to Kyrgyzstan, according to the Guardian.

The couple, believed to share the last name Shmyrev, allegedly set up businesses abroad and began assimilating into their communities, even building romantic relationships with locals. It was those relationships that led to their unmasking, although the Shmyrevs escaped before being caught, according to the publication. 

The Deep Cover

Although Russian spies are usually married and assigned to an espionage mission abroad as a pair, Campos Wittich and Tsalla were deployed to different countries, the Guardian noted. 

Campos Wittich, who took residence in Rio de Janeiro, opened a 3D-printing business, where he secured Brazilian military and government agencies as his clients. The alleged spy reportedly made 3D sculptures, such as a commemorative green snake for the military as well as novelty sausage dog keychains.

Tsalla, who posed as a photography blogger and ran a knitting supplies shop in Athens, lived halfway around the world from her spouse, according to the Guadian. She arrived in Greece on a Mexican passport, telling friends she was born in Greece but had been raised in Belize, the publication reported. 

The pair spoke rarely of their upbringings, according to acquaintances, and Campos Wittich had an accent whenever he spoke Portuguese, according to the report.

The Unmasking

While preparing to open a new 3D-printing headquarters about 50 meters from the U.S. consulate in Rio, Campos Wittich took a flight to Doha, Malaysia, claiming to be attending a 3D-printing course there, the Guardian reported. At the time, Campos Wittich had been in a two-year relationship with a local Brazilian whom he had lived with in Rio.

One day in early January, Campos Wittich allegedly stopped messaging his girlfriend in Brazil, which prompted her to begin searching for him on social media, according to the publication. Eventually, the Brazilian foreign ministry, along with several Facebook communities in Malaysia, began to search for Campos Wittich and came upon his real identity, the Guardian reported. 

Tsalla, who allegedly developed a romantic relationship with the director of a language school, disappeared shortly after Campos Wittich left Brazil. It’s assumed the two alleged spies returned to Russia, according to the Guardian. 

The Backdrop

Amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Putin may have deployed a number “illegals” to various countries on espionage missions to make up for the numerous Russian spies that had resided in the countries legally and were later expelled, according to the publication. 

At least half a dozen of those “illegal” spies have been exposed over the last year, which may indicate a defector is providing intelligence to Western authorities, the Guardian noted. Four alleged spies working for Putin are currently being held in various jails in foreign countries, including one who is detained in Brazil.

Of the six, a married couple, posing as Argentinians, was arrested in Slovenia in December, accused of being elite Russian spies who were working for Russia’s SVR foreign intelligence service. The two arrests are believed to have prompted the Russians to direct Mr. And Mrs. Shmyrev to return home for fear their identities had been compromised, according to the report.

Read Next: Russian Defector Says Putin ‘Is Pathologically Afraid For His Life’

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