The Slovene Intelligence and Security Agency (Slovenska obveščevalno-varnostna služba – SOVA) has allegedly arrested two Russian spies, and the National Bureau of Investigation (Nacionalna preiskovalna agencija – NPU) is also said to be involved in the prosecution, according to the Slovenian Press Agency (Slovenska tiskovna agencija – STA). The two foreign nationals were accused of spying for Russia. They were operating under the guise of being entrepreneurs with citizenship from one of the South American countries, and they worked in an office building in Bežigrad. Suspicions of well-organised Russian espionage activity in Slovenia go back a decade or more.
The District State Prosecutor’s Office has recently confirmed for the Delo newspaper that, on the basis of an announcement by the Slovene Intelligence and Security Agency, a pre-trial procedure was initiated, and a request for an investigation was filed at the beginning of December of last year with the Investigation Department of the Ljubljana District Court against two natural persons brought in for the crime of espionage. The National Bureau of Investigation also participated in the prosecution and arrest of the suspects.
The Russian agents had been renting an office in the Lesnina office building on Parmova Street in Ljubljana. The company, which served as a cover for them to operate in Slovenia, was formally engaged in real estate and antiques trading. Both arrested had third-country nationalities and passports and did not pose as Russian citizens. According to Delo, at least one of them had Argentinean citizenship.
As reported by the Siol media outlet, according to unofficial information, the cell of spies from Ljubljana that was discovered was carrying out operations not only in Slovenia but also abroad. The operation was allegedly carried out in cooperation with foreign intelligence services.
The suspects face a total of up to eight years in prison for the offences of espionage and certification of false content. While the accused are in custody, a court order has finally opened an investigation against them on suspicion of the offences of espionage for a foreign intelligence service and the offences of certification of false content under Article 253(2) of the Criminal Code.
Ukrainian Ambassador: Ljubljana is a hotbed for Russian spies
Ukrainian Ambassador Oleksandr Levchenko told the Croatian portal Nacional in June last year that Ljubljana is a hotbed for Russian spies.
“Russia has a hotbed of its intelligence community in Ljubljana. It is important for the Kremlin to always receive first-hand, confidential information,” he said, referring in particular to the reactions of former Slovenian presidents Milan Kučan and Danilo Türk: “Political messages from Ljubljana from former top politicians are not unexpected. There will be more, and not only from Slovenia.”
The magazine Reporter also wrote about this topic a few years ago when it was reported that Andrej Benedejčič was spying for the Russians. The then-Slovenian ambassador to NATO denied the allegations that he was spying for Russia and that there was an ongoing investigation. “Benedejčič is considered a Russophile and is known to be a supporter of former President Danilo Türk, who is also known to be Soviet-oriented. He took up his post as ambassador to NATO in September 2011, appointed by then-President Türk. He came to the position in question from the post of Director-General for Global Affairs and Political Multilateralism at the Foreign Ministry, prior to which he was the Ambassador to Russia,” Reporter wrote.
According to some information, his wife, Minca Benedejčič, who is now at the embassy in Priština, also worked at the embassy at the time. Interestingly, this same Benedejčič has now been appointed by Prime Minister Robert Golob to the post of Secretary of State for National Security, as we have already written about. The media outlet Požareport writes that this is, of course, no coincidence, as among other things – according to its sources – there will come a time when “the anti-NATO coalition will reach its peak,” leading to a referendum on Slovenia’s withdrawal from NATO. It is also undoubtedly telling that Golob put a sworn Russophile in the post of chief of national security at the very time of the war with Ukraine.
As the arrest of the Russian spies is an ongoing, developing story, we will report on it as soon as we have further information.