In March of last year, a 66-year-old man named Sergei Skripal was the target of an alleged Russian assassination attempt on UK soil. Skripal, a former Russian military intelligence officer turned asset for the MI6, and his daughter were both exposed to a Soviet-era nerve agent called Novichock. The nerve agent very nearly killed them — and did kill a third party bystander.

As the investigation unfolded, two Russian intelligence agents were named as prime suspects in the attempted murder: Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov of Russia’s GRU. The GRU is often compared to America’s CIA, but that’s not quite accurate. The GRU is, in many ways, a covert arm of Russia’s military.

It seems likely, though, that those are not the agents’ real names — the very same names recently turned up in the French Alps, along with some 13 other Russian spies operating out of the Haute-Savoie department in the Alps. That’s right: A covert ring of Russian military intelligence officers have been operating out of the French Alps. It is now believed that the agents were using the Alps as the GRU’s rear base for covert operations in Europe.

Photographs showing Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Borishov, two men accused of poisoning former spy Sergei Skripal. London Metropolitan Police

While stories in Ian Fleming novels and Jason Bourne movies tend to depict the high stakes world of covert espionage as something akin to a superhero movie, the reality of covert operations usually tends to involve a bit more tact. So, the repeated exposure of Russian intelligence assets and assassins operating throughout Europe seems to indicate one of two likely possibilities: either Russia’s spies are generally bad at their job, or Russia simply doesn’t care all that much about exposure because denying foreign accusations has worked to great effect thus far: Aside from the expulsion of some diplomats and a few more sanctions on the pile, Russia has proven that it’s able to operate with near-impunity outside its borders.

“It’s good that our European partners are taking the Russian threat so seriously,” Marc Polymeropoulos, a former senior CIA officer with expertise in Europe and Russia, told NBC. “Russia behaves at times like an outlaw regime, attempting to kill dissidents abroad and fomenting unrest in European democracies. It takes the sustained efforts of European security services working together to counter this threat.”

Earlier this week, two more Russian diplomats were expelled from Germany after it was uncovered that Russian agents operating in Berlin had assassinated a Georgian citizen this past August. Zelimkhan Khangoshvili, 40, was gunned down while walking through a park en route to a mosque. The assassin sped away on an electric bicycle. A short time later he ditched the bike, his weapon and the wig he was wearing into the nearby Spree River. According to German prosecutors, Khangoshvili had fought with a Georgian unit defending South Ossetia during the 2008 Georgia-Russia war. He had been designated a “terrorist” by the Russian government.

In keeping with Russia’s apparent inability to keep their covert operations covert, the suspect was spotted disposing of the evidence by a number of witnesses who promptly contacted law enforcement. 48-year-old Vadim Sokolov, a Russian national, was taken into custody a short time later.

From there, it wasn’t hard to tie Sokolov back to the Russian government. Sokolov had arrived in Paris on August 17 from Moscow. He secured a visa by claiming to work for a firm out of St. Petersburg called Zao Rust. He then left Paris for Warsaw, where he allegedly made the six-hour drive to Berlin with the intent of killing Khangoshvili.