According to reports, a Russian spy spent ten years impersonating a jewellery designer in order to penetrate NATO by tricking commanders into honeytraps.
Bellingcat has identified Maria Adela Kuhfeldt Rivera, whose true name is Olga Kolobova, as a spy for the GRU, Russia’s foreign intelligence service.
She spent a decade working as a seductive socialite and businesswoman, establishing tight ties with people in the UK and as far away as the Middle East.
Maria Adela spent years travelling back and forth between Rome, Malta, and Paris before settling in Naples, Italy.
She charmed her way into exclusive social circles and established herself at the centre of the city’s international party scene as the proprietor of an opulent jewellery store.
Even the NATO and US Marine Corps balls were attended by her.
She also succeeded in getting the job as secretary for the NATO-affiliated Lions Club Napoli Monte Nuovo, which raises money for charitable causes.
Maria Adela, who was fluent in both Italian and English, is said to have made friends with several NATO officers.
Unidentified officer claimed to have had a “short romantic relationship” with her to Bellingcat.
She reportedly grew close to several NATO officers, including one who worked for the US Navy and whom she claimed to have “a little crush” on.
She concocted a backstory to her friends, according to Bellingcat, about being abandoned in Russia by her Peruvian mother and being raised by an abusive household.
The daughter of a Russian military colonel, Maria Adela, wed an Italian in 2012.
He was actually Russian and Ecuadorian, and at the age of 30, he inexplicably passed away from “double pneumonia and systemic lupus.”
She moved to Naples and began socialising with NATO diplomats following his passing.
The former editor of the women’s magazine Cosmopolitan, Marcelle D’Argy Smith, was a friend of the spy.
She remembers Maria Adela picking her up from Naples airport in a “very flashy car, maybe an Audi convertible”.
“We were such really good friends,” she said.
“She was like a goddaughter or a niece. It was upsetting to find out.
“She was very beautiful, very understated. I didn’t think other women liked her because they realised she could, if she chose, be a threat.
“She had lots of male friends but they never seemed worthy. She was so attractive and the men looked ordinary and I never understood it.”
Colonel Sheila Bryant, who was the US Naval Forces in Europe and Africa’s inspector general at the time, was also questioned by Bellingcat about Maria Adela’s account.
She asked coworkers to “restrict access” to highly secret military material around her, calling the woman’s account “confusing and unconvincing.”
Maria Adela abruptly purchased a one-way ticket from Naples to Moscow in 2018; she hasn’t been seen by any of her close friends in the West since.
The attempted murder of Sergei Skripal in Salisbury that year was carried out by Russia’s GRU foreign intelligence organisation.
Maria Adela is thought to have hurriedly left after believing her cover had been compromised after intelligence agencies revealed the GRU’s efforts.
Bellingcat thinks the person who passed herself off as Maria Adela was actually Olga Kolobova, a GRU agent, as revealed by photo-matching software.
According to the investigators, Maria Adela’s passport hasn’t been used since she returned to Moscow.