On a bright day in July 2010, Russian and American planes stopped side by side for about an hour and a half, while cars moved back and forth between them to exchange spies, after which the Russian plane took off and was followed by the Americans.

It later emerged that the United States and Russia had conducted the first and largest exchange of spies since the Cold War. The United States handed over 10 members of a Russian spy cell caught working to infiltrate America as "sleeper agents."

The exchange included Anna Chapman or Putin's red-haired spy who combined all the characteristics of a successful spy, from her breathtaking beauty and intelligence to her ability to make decisions in difficult times and network. In return, Russia released 4 Russians accused of spying for the United States and the West.

U.S. and Russian planes on the runway at Vienna airport during a 2010 exchange of spies (Reuters)

The prisoner exchange was not in the dark between gunmen in trench coats that we expect from the Cold War epics. But that day, Vienna lived up to its reputation as the world's spy capital, as author Cindy Otis described in an article published in The Daily Beast.

Vienna has a long history of espionage, and between World Wars I and II, Vienna became a European center for espionage activities. Nazi Germany under Adolf Hitler, later called the Third Reich, gathered much of its intelligence on southern and eastern Europe in Vienna. By the time the Cold War began, Vienna was an ideal place to gather intelligence because of the large number of refugees living there who desperately needed to earn a living, even if it meant selling the information to foreign intelligence services.

With this reputation, Vienna was the scene of Orson Welles' 1949 spy thriller Third Man, one of the most prominent films in cinema history and one of the top 10 films about espionage and secret agents.

Another notable incident in Vienna was the assassination of Chechen dissident Ömer Isralyov in broad daylight in the capital of beauty and music on 13 January 2009.

Days before he was killed, Omar Israilov, a father of four, asked in vain for police protection after noticing that he was being pursued on the street. The ruling highlighted Russia's modus operandi. According to Austrian prosecutors, it was Chechen leader Ramadan Kadyrov who gave the orders.

A former head of Austria's intelligence service once told The Telegraph that more than 7,<> spies were working in Vienna. "It's a nice place for spies to live in and bring their families," he said.


The Portuguese city of Lisbon was also known as the "City of Spies" and was a beehive of espionage activity during World War II (1939-1945), where many secret agents from all the Allied countries (including Britain, France, China, and later the United States and the Soviet Union) and the Axis (which included Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, Japan, Austria, Romania, Bulgaria, and Hungary) operated under the cover of their diplomatic status. Portugal's dictator, Antonio Salazar, was said to have been "playing on both ropes" in order to protect the country from wartime backlash, but the Allies and the Axis fought a fierce war in Lisbon with spies, propaganda and diplomatic pressure on Salazar, in order to abandon his country's neutrality. It is noteworthy that the atmosphere of the city, during this period, is very reminiscent of the atmosphere of the famous film "Casablanca", about the mysteries of espionage.


An Israeli-owned bus confiscated by Cypriot police in 2019 (Reuters)

Nicosia- Cyprus

The eastern Mediterranean island of Cyprus is divided into two states: the Ankara-backed Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), which is not internationally recognized, and the internationally recognized Greek Republic of Cyprus, which controls the rest of the country. Nicosia, the capital of the Republic of Cyprus, has been divided since the 1974 Turkish intervention that followed a Greek-backed coup the same year.

The unstable political situation in Cyprus and its strategic location have turned it into an attractive location for intelligence activities in Europe and the Middle East. Cyprus, a suspicious banking haven and tourist attraction, is a hotbed of Russian intelligence activity, and an easy place for Russians and their spies that will help attract members of other intelligence agencies.

In 2019, Cypriot police seized a "spy bus" equipped with a sophisticated surveillance system and interrogated its Israeli owner following media reports that the bus was rented to spy on people.

The police investigation into the case began after the bus appeared in a Forbes video several months ago about the Israeli, whom it described as a former officer in Israel's intelligence services.

According to Forbes, the machine's $9 million equipment is capable of eavesdropping on electronic devices within a 500-meter radius, hacking any phone device, and eavesdropping on conversations of any level of encoding.

Bangkok - Thailand

Thailand, the only non-colonized country in Southeast Asia, is similar to Switzerland in the region. Bangkok is its capital and major city, located on the Chao Phraya River in central Thailand, and is considered the country's main port, and its largest commercial and cultural centers, with an area of about 1565,<> square kilometers. It was called the Venice of the East because of its many canals.

Bangkok is a place where intelligence agents from China, the United States, Iran, Russia and many other countries feel free to operate, with its relative proximity to China a huge advantage for the United States.

Other wet. Despite being designated as a "major spy center" in early 1984, Bangkok has also become an open backyard for spies. The movement of people in and out of Bangkok has become so important for spy services that Chinese intelligence has successfully hacked biometric data from the airport there.


Djibouti, a small country of about a million people, has become, due to its strategic location and stability, the hub of the major countries in the world, with the military bases of great powers and the tendency of others to build their own bases there.

Djibouti is located in the Horn of Africa, stretching the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden. The Bab al-Mandab Strait, which separates Djibouti from Yemen — and thus Africa from Asia Minor — is only 30 kilometers wide, a major oil shipping route and a vital point for ships transiting the Suez Canal.

More recently, however, Djibouti has become a major battleground in the espionage struggle between the United States and China. In 2017, China opened its first overseas military base there, with an estimated 10,<> Chinese troops stationed outside the capital. The base enhances China's ability to support patrols by Chinese naval vessels in waters off the Yemeni and Somali coasts to carry out their humanitarian missions in that area.

In contrast, the United States maintains its main overseas base for its military command in Africa and the only permanent U.S. base on the continent, Camp Lemonnier, near Djibouti's international airport. It serves as a key staging ground for special operations missions in the region, as well as various drone operations. In 2018, the CIA bought and provided the infamous Pegasus spyware to Djiboutian intelligence services, according to the New York Times.

Since Djibouti was a former French colony, Paris also has an extensive military and intelligence network in the country, with troops from Japan, Spain and Italy also deployed there.

Mexico City attracts spies because of its proximity to the United States (Reuters)

Mexico City - Mexico

The Mexican capital offers a spying advantage that surpasses all others: proximity to the United States. Although Canada is a more relaxed counterintelligence environment than its southern neighbor — and therefore also attractive to foreign spies seeking to meet nearby, but not within, the United States — Canada's intelligence and security service (CSIS) is highly professional and cooperates very closely with its American counterparts.

However, Mexico provides a more neutral environment for foreign spies. In the late seventies, Mexican officials arrested Andrew Dolton Lee for throwing a notebook through the fence of the Soviet embassy in Mexico City, with a top-secret film in his possession. Lee and his friend, the American spy Christopher Boyce, were selling secret secrets to the Soviets. At the time of his arrest in Mexico, Lee was trying to reconnect with Soviet intelligence agents. During interrogation, Lee was returned to the United States, where he was convicted of espionage and sentenced to life in prison.

OTD Jan 26, 1977 #Andrew_Daulton_Lee and #Christopher_Boyce indicted for espionage, giving #Sean_Penn opportunity for brilliant performance pic.twitter.com/Jh5KoHbYbJ

— SPIES&VESPERS (@SpiesVespers) January 26, 2023

U.S. officials know that Russian, Chinese, Iranian, and Cuban agents are using Mexico for operational purposes. Some have even tried to cross overland from Mexico to the United States, according to a former U.S. national security official. "There were several plots that were foiled or prevented" by foreign spies trying to travel from Mexico to the United States, the former official said.

During an appearance before the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee, the head of North American Air Defense Command, Gen. Glenn Van Herrick, asserted that Russia has the largest contingent of intelligence agents in Mexico of all deployed in the world.

Dubai – United Arab Emirates

Of all the cities on this list, Dubai is perhaps the least surprising. It is a favorite place for the world's wealthy and is also teeming with spies from across the Middle East and beyond.

From time to time, intelligence activities turn into killings, as happened in 2010, when a group of Mossad agents, traveling with false passports from different countries, assassinated Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in a luxury hotel there.

Too often, however, intelligence operations are carried out invisibly unnoticed, with Dubai serving as a key hidden battleground in the conflict between the United States and Iran. According to a former U.S. intelligence official, and within the U.S. intelligence community, the most monitored place on earth is the U.S. visa processing line in Dubai for Iranian citizens.


As for the most important sites associated with espionage around the world, they are, according to the British Telegraph newspaper: -

Glynick Bridge - Berlin


Berlin's Glynick Bridge is known as the Bridge of Spies (Reuters)

The bridge sits on the far western outskirts of Berlin and still has a faint white line crossing its center indicating the border between East and West Berlin during the Cold War. Through this line, the world has followed for about 61 years a prisoner exchange between the American and Soviet sides, coinciding with the downing of the American U-2 reconnaissance aircraft over Soviet territory. During the February 10, 1962 exchange, the Americans accepted the return of the pilot of the American spy plane Francis Gary Powers in exchange for the release of August Fischer, also known as Rudolf Abel, one of the most dangerous Soviet spies. Thanks to this, the spy Fisher regained his freedom and escaped 30 years in prison. In return, the Americans took back pilot Francis Gary Powers, who was nicknamed by some as the weak man for not committing suicide rather than falling into Soviet hands.

This prisoner exchange was cinematically embodied in the American film Bridge of Spies, directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Tom Hanks and Mark Rylance. The bridge was used to exchange a number of spies captured throughout the Cold War conflict.

Atheni Palace Hotel, Bucharest

The historic Athenee Palace Hotel in Bucharest, Romania, is known as a den of espionage in World War II and the Cold War. Built in 1914, at the time of World War I, the hotel was renovated in 1937, before World War II, and Romanian authorities used the hotel to monitor British spies and the German secret police (Gestapo) in the run-up to World War II. Once nationalized in 1948, the new communist government eavesdropped on every room, tapped every phone, and supplied the hotel with informants. The hotel was purchased by Hilton Group in 1994.

Leeuwarden – Netherlands

The Dutch city of Leeuwarden commemorates its most famous compatriot, the German dancer and spy Mata Hari, with a statue in its center.

It can be said that "Mata Hari" is the most famous spy of the twentieth century, she was a famous dancer, and a French court sentenced her to death on July 25, 1917, for spying for Germany during World War I and was executed on October 15 of the same year.

Mata Hari used a very complex code method to correspond with German agents outside France, a method that is difficult to decipher and solve, and the security men revolted at this point and discord and discord between them.

Some of them believed that Mata Hari should be arrested before she passed on to the Germans dangerous secrets that may lead to the defeat of France, while others believe that arresting her without evidence warns her of their suspicions without enough to convict her, and indeed she was arrested in 1916, and tried on charges of espionage. But the story is not over yet, as Mata Harry strongly denied the charge and denounced it and defended herself strongly, and confirms her loyalty to France and her willingness to work for it, and instead of ending the trial with the conviction of Mata Harry on espionage charges, it ended with an agreement between her and the French to work for them and obtain any secret information for them due to her strong relations with a number of German military and politicians.

The French agreed to this and sent Mata Hari already on a secret mission in Belgium, where she met some French secret agents and provided them with many useful services.

The end came when the Germans sent her encrypted letters, using a code that the French understand well, which made the French arrest Mata Harry a second time on charges of espionage with the letters as evidence this time, and again Mata Harry was tried in Paris, and this time Mata Harry did not succeed in convincing the French of her innocence, so she was sentenced to death, and the sentence was executed by firing squad.

Antennas of the former U.S. listening station on a hill in Berlin (Reuters)

Tueflsberg – Berlin

The artificial Teufelsberg Hill, or what is known as the Devil's Mountain in the German city of Berlin, was built from the ruins of the city after the end of World War II, and this hill was chosen as an ideal elevated site for Americans to eavesdrop on the radio communications of Russians in East Berlin and beyond. After setting up a listening station there, local soldiers identified the area as Twevelsberg Hill.

Le Maurice – Paris

Le Maurice in Paris was the scene of a meeting with Felix Bloch of the U.S. State Department, Soviet intelligence agent or KGB Renaud Geckman in 1989. French counterintelligence agents filmed Bloch arriving with a black suitcase, leaving without it, and Gickman arriving with nothing — leaving with a black suitcase. The FBI was unable to prove anything to Bloch, asserting that the bag contained only a set of stamps.

London's Waterloo Bridge was the scene of the assassination of Bulgarian dissident novelist and journalist Georgi Markov in 1978 (Reuters)

Waterloo Bridge - London

Waterloo Bridge on the River Thames in the British capital, London, witnessed the assassination of the Bulgarian novelist and journalist dissident Georgy Markov in 1978 when he was walking on it heading towards a bus stop in order to board the bus and head towards his workplace at the BBC, Markov felt a sharp pain in his right thigh from behind, he looked back and saw a man - believed to be a member of the Bulgarian secret police - picking up an umbrella from the ground and then rushing across the road to the other pier and get into a taxi and go.

7 September 1978. Bulgarian dissident, Georgi Markov (aged 49), was hit in the leg walking on Waterloo Bridge, London by a pellet containing the poison ricin. It was fired from an umbrella wielded by someone associated with the Bulgarian Secret Service. He died 4 days later. pic.twitter.com/gZRjdwQP7E

— Prof. Frank McDonough (@FXMC1957) September 7, 2022

When Markov reached work, he noticed a small red spot in his thigh and the pain multiplied, he told his co-workers about the incident, and at evening he developed a high fever and was taken to St James's Hospital in London, where he died 4 days later. Going to

The incident occurred in 1978 at the age of 49 years, and investigations showed that he was injected with ricin poison through the sharp parachute head that he pricked with, and it is likely that the operation was carried out by agents of the Bulgarian secret intelligence with the help of the Russian intelligence service "KGB", and the assassination of Georgi was called the Umbrella Crime. Georgy Markov was an opponent of then-Bulgarian President Tudor Zhivkov, sharply and fiercely criticizing communism.