how a Russian agent made her way into NATO circles in Italy

This joint investigation by Bellingcat, Der Spiegel, The Insider and La Repubblica was conducted over 10 months. It is based on data from open sources, publicly available archives, FOIA data from Peru, leaked Russian databases and interviews with people who unsuspectingly befriended a Russian spy.

Olga Vasiljevna Kolobova, who went by the name Maria Adela Kufeldt Rivera for many years, had direct contact with many NATO and US Navy officials in Naples and received valuable information from various European countries over the years. She would still be living and working in Europe if a media investigation had not forced her to return to Russia and change her career as an intelligence officer to a modest position at the Pension Fund.

Although the Maria Adela undoubtedly had direct personal contact with many NATO and US Navy officials in Naples and exchanged home visits with several of them, it is unclear whether she ever physically entered a NATO base. However, according to various digital records and recollections of acquaintances, she attended many events organized by NATO or the US military, including NATO annual parties, various fund-raising dinners, and the annual gatherings of the US Marine Corps.

The “Birth” of Maria Adela

The name “Marija Adela” first appeared in 2005. at the district civil registry office in Lima, Peru, who received a request to add a new Peruvian citizen to the national database. Maria Adela’s lawyers submitted a birth certificate from the registry office of the coastal town of Callao, along with a baptismal certificate from the parish of Christ Liberador in the town of Callao. The registry office contacted the parish priest for confirmation of this information. The priest didn’t even have to check church records to realize the document was fake. As a result of this fraudulent statement, Peru’s Ministry of Justice referred the case to the prosecutor’s office for “crimes against public security and faith.”

Although the Peruvian citizenship story failed, the GRU leadership did not come up with a new life story for “Maria Adela”. Adela received her first Russian passport in 2006, which contained the exact same name and date of birth. She allegedly worked at Moscow State University and lived in Moscow. However, according to the address where she lives, as was determined during the investigation, other people who did not know about her existence lived there.

“Maria Adela” told an incredible story to the people she met. According to her, she was born in Peru, her father was German and her mother was Peruvian. Her father abandoned them, and her mother raised her alone. In 1980, she went with her to the Soviet Union to participate in the Olympic Games. There, her mother received an urgent message from Peru urging her to return home immediately, and left little “Maria Adela” in the care of a family living in the Soviet Union, whom she allegedly befriended.

When Adela appeared in Europe is difficult to determine, but judging by her photos on social networks, she was in Rome and Malta between 2009 and 2011. Former Cosmopolitan UK editor Marcel D’Argy Smith has considered Adele a close friend since meeting her at a birthday party in Malta in 2010.

According to him, “Marija Adela” studied gemology at the University of Rome, and later, in 2011, went to the UK in February, taking part in study tours with various fashion design companies. in 2011 in October, “Marija Adela” moved to Paris, ostensibly to finish her studies there.

Soon after moving to Paris, she registered her jewelry brand Serein in France. From that moment on, this jewelry company became Adela’s official business.

A strange marriage

In July 2012, “Marija Adela” married a man whom she introduced to her friends as Italian. In fact, her husband was without an Italian passport, had Ecuadorian and Russian citizenship, was born in Moscow to a Russian mother and an Ecuadorian father. in 2013 he went alone to Moscow, where he died the same year.

Close friends of the man were very surprised when they learned from The Insider that he was married. They had never heard of “Marie Adela” and her appearance told them nothing.

Good luck in Naples

At the beginning of 2013, Adela registered her company “Serein” in Italy, the purpose of which was the production and trade of jewelry and luxury goods.

Over the next three years, she became an integral part of the local social life: she opened a jewelry and luxury boutique, then turned it into a fashion club where the local social life was boiling. She eventually became head of the local regional chapter of the Lion’s Club charity.

An investigation revealed that “small works of art” allegedly “made in Naples” for sale at Maria Adela’s store turned out to be cheap trinkets bought from Chinese online wholesalers.

Perhaps Adela’s main achievement, which opened many doors for her, was the position of secretary of the local chapter of the Lion’s Club charity. This branch, called the Lions Club Napoli Monte Nuovo, had one important feature: it was created by NATO officers based in Naples, and even had the insignia of the combined NATO forces on its flag.

Acquaintances of NATO-affiliated “Marija Adela” said that as a member of the Lion’s Club, she interacted with many NATO employees, became friends with a considerable number of officers and often communicated with them on social networks. According to them, some of the relationships were clearly romantic in nature.

Among those believed to have become close to “Marie Adela” was Colonel Shelia Bryant, then Inspector General of US Naval Forces Europe and Africa. According to the colonel, she found the story of “Marija Adela” confusing and unconvincing: “She opened a shop and often changed expensive apartments, despite the fact that the origin of the money was unclear.”

According to D’Argy Smith’s memoirs and “Marija Adela’s” Facebook posts, since 2013 she regularly travels to Bahrain under the pretense of attending an annual jewelery exhibition.

Adela also seems to have managed to make good connections in Bahrain. in 2014 in December, her company’s Facebook account posted a photo of her handing Serein cufflinks to then-Prime Minister Prince Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa.

What exactly Adela was doing in Bahrain is unclear, but it’s worth noting that the country is home to a US Navy base that employs more than 7,000 US officers and soldiers.

Withdrawal

After The Insider and Bellingcat published an investigation into other GRU spies, Maria Adela mysteriously disappeared without telling her friends in Italy. As you know, in 2018 she flew to Moscow for the last time, taking with her her cat Louise, whom her acquaintances described as “the only stable thing in her life”. A few months later, Adela shared a post on her Facebook account in which she revealed that she had cancer.

While the fictional “Mariya Adela” died of cancer, the real Olga Kolobova was well established in Moscow, buying the latest Audi model and moving into an elite apartment provided by the state.

It turned out to be quite a task for journalists to find the true identity of “Maria Adela”. However, the biographies of Olga Kolobova and “Marija Adele” selected based on the photos matched perfectly.

Also, Olga Kolobova did not leave any digital footprint in Moscow until 2018. However, traces of her presence are often found after November 2018, around the time when “Marija Adela” was supposed to return to Moscow.

Another proof is that on her Odnoklassniki account, Kolobova promotes war-promoting content from the group “Putin’s friends” and orders the services of a veterinary clinic in Moscow, which also treats cats, and it is known that she returned to Russia with her cat Luiza.

The Insider attempted to contact Olga Kolobova via Telegram and email for comment. Although the message was read, O. Kolobova did not respond to it.

Based on information from The Insider and Bellingcat.

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