News / Europe

Moscow Toasts Suspected Spies

An internet user looks at a facebook page dedicated to Anna Chapman in Paris on July 23, 2010
An internet user looks at a facebook page dedicated to Anna Chapman in Paris on July 23, 2010
James Brooke

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin sang old KGB songs with them and Anna Chapman's Facebook website page is the most visited in Russia.  Russians are toasting the 10 alleged sleeper spies that the United States sent home earlier this month.  

The suspected Russian spies have been kept out of sight since they were whisked out of a Moscow airport three weeks ago in vans with tinted windows.  But behind the scenes, they are getting star treatment.  A few days ago, they had a sing along with Prime Minister Putin, who is a former KGB agent.  It was no karaoke, Mr. Putin said, but singing of such agency favorites as "What the Motherland Begins With."

In televised comments, Mr. Putin spoke sympathetically of the difficult life of a spy.  He said the 10 people deported from the United States will be well taken care of.  "I'm sure they will be offered good jobs," he said.  "And I am sure they will have interesting, bright lives."

In response to a reporter's question, Mr. Putin confirmed the group included Anna Kushchenko, better known in the west as Anna Chapman.

An Anna Chapman cult has grown up in Russia, fueled in part by nude photographs provided by her former British husband.  According to LiveInternet, a statistics website, Chapman's Facebook page is the now most visited webpage on the social network in Russia.  With Russian tabloid newspapers referring her to "Agent 90-60-90," a reference to her figure, the Russian press is feverishly trying to interview Chapman, with offers reportedly reaching $250,000.

New York lawyer, Robert Baum says Chapman is not "shopping" her story.  Her plea agreement with U.S. prosecutors forbids her from making money by selling her story in a book or movie form.  In the United States, the Internet website Herobuilders.com is selling three action figure Anna Chapman dolls.  One, called "The Spy I Could Love," shows Chapman topless, wearing only a plaid kilt and carrying a large black pistol.

Moscow's rumor mill worked overtime last week with speculation that Chapman would join Angelina Jolie for the Sunday premiere of the Hollywood movie Salt, a Russian-American spy thriller.  But the thousands of Muscovites who endured 35 degree temperatures outside the Oktyabr theater on New Arbat street had to content themselves with glimpses of Jolie.  She wore a floor length Versace gown in a color she called "Russian red."  During the movie's showing, the audience cheered when Jolie's character revealed her Russian identity.

The movie opens across Russia on Thursday, and theaters report that advance ticket sales are strong.   

Prime Minister Putin's public identification with the deported spies is part of his image-building strategy, analysts here say.

Alexander Minkin is a columnist for the Moskovsky Komsomolets newspaper.

"When I heard that he sang songs with the returned, ransomed spies, I really loved it.  I really loved it.  This is absolutely so much his style.  He simply showed everyone who is in charge here.  He arrogantly spat on respectability.  Russians probably adored that," he said.

In Volgograd, Anna Chapman's hometown, a newspaper has started a song contest in honor of their native daughter.  One entry has the chorus, "Hands off our Anya; Freedom for Anya Chapman."

From the other side of the U.S.-Russia swap on July 9th, one of the Russians sent to the West might be homesick.  Igor Sutyagin, a Russian arms researcher who rejected accusations of being a spy, wrote a letter to the media last week vowing to return to his homeland.

"I very much want to see my wife, daughter, parents and my brother," he wrote in a letter posted on his website.  Referring to his riverside cottage, he promised, "I plan eventually to return to Obninsk and fix the by now completely rickety porch of our little house."

But, at a recent press conference in Ukraine, Prime Minister Putin held out little hope of Sutyagin's return.

"Traitors always meet with a bad end.  As a rule, they end up drunk or drugged in a ditch,' he said.'

In response to a reporter's question, Mr. Putin said he knew the names of those who betrayed the spy ring in the United States.  Asked whether he planned to punish them, he replied:

"Such questions cannot be decided at a news conference.  The special services have their own laws, which all service members are aware of," Putin said

Back in Moscow, U.S. Ambassador to Russia John Beyrle said the larger U.S.-Russia relationship has not been damaged by the spy affair.

"U.S.-Russian relations right now are as strong as they have been for quite some time, and nothing that has happened in connection with this spy exchange has done anything to change that," he said.

For many in Moscow, the spy affair might be remembered as a welcome diversion from the most pressing issue at hand -- a severe summer drought and the hottest temperatures on record.

You May Like

Australia-Cambodia Resettlement Agreement Raises Concerns

Agreement calls for Cambodia to accept refugees in return for $35 million in aid and reflects Australia’s harder line approach towards asylum seekers and refugees More

India Looks to Become Arms Supplier Instead of Buyer

US hopes India can become alternative to China for countries looking to buy weapons, but experts question growth potential of Indian arms industry More

Earth Day Concert, Rally Draws Thousands in Washington

President Obama also took up the issue Saturday in his weekly address, saying there 'no greater threat to our planet than climate change' More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?i
X
Steve Sandford
April 17, 2015 12:50 AM
Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?

Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Overwhelmed by Migrants, Italy Mulls Military Action to Stabilize Libya

Thousands more migrants have arrived on the southern shores of Italy from North Africa in the past two days. Authorities say they expect the total number of arrivals this year to far exceed previous levels, and the government has said military action in Libya might be necessary to stem the flow. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Putin Accuses Kyiv of ‘Cutting Off’ Eastern Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin, in his annual televised call-in program, again denied there were any Russian troops fighting in Ukraine. He also said the West was trying to ‘contain’ Russia with sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports on reactions to the president’s four-hour TV appearance.
Video

Video Eye Contact Secures Dog's Place in Human Heart

Dogs serve in the military, work with police and assist the disabled, and have been by our side for thousands of years serving as companions and loyal friends. We love them. They love us in return. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports on a new study that looks at the bio-chemical bond that cements that human-canine connection.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Search for Bodies of Missing Soldiers

As the cease-fire becomes more fragile in eastern Ukraine, a team of volunteer body collectors travels to the small village of Savur Mohyla in the what pro-Russian separatists call the Donetsk Peoples Republic - to retrieve bodies of fallen Ukrainian servicemen from rebel-held territories. Adam Bailes traveled with the team and has this report.
Video

Video Xenophobic Violence Sweeps South Africa

South Africa, long a haven for African immigrants, has been experiencing the worst xenophobic violence in years, with at least five people killed and hundreds displaced in recent weeks. From Johannesburg, VOA’s Anita Powell brings us this report.
Video

Video Sierra Leone President Koroma Bemoans Ebola Impact on Economy

In an interview with VOA's Shaka Ssali on Wednesday, President Ernest Koroma said the outbreak undermined his government’s efforts to boost and restructure the economy after years of civil war.
Video

Video Protester Lands Gyrocopter on Capitol Lawn

A 61-year-old mailman from Florida landed a small aircraft on the Capitol lawn in Washington to bring attention to campaign finance reform and what he says is government corruption. Wednesday's incident was one in a string of security breaches on U.S. government property. Zlatica Hoke reports the gyrocopter landing violated a no-fly zone.
Video

Video Apollo 13, NASA's 'Successful Failure,' Remembered

The Apollo 13 mission in 1970 was supposed to be NASA's third manned trip to the moon, but it became much more. On the flight's 45th anniversary, astronauts and flight directors gathered at Chicago's Adler Planetarium to talk about how the aborted mission changed manned spaceflight and continues to influence space exploration today. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Badly Burned Ukrainian Boy Bravely Fights Back

A 9-year-old Ukrainian boy has returned to his native country after intensive treatment in the United States for life-threatening burns. Volodia Bubela, burned in a house fire almost a year ago, battled back at a Boston hospital, impressing doctors with his bravery. Faith Lapidus narrates this report from VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko.
Video

Video US Maternity Leave Benefits Much Less Than Many Countries

It was almost 20 years ago that representatives of 189 countries met at a UN conference in Beijing and adopted a plan of action to achieve gender equality around the world. Now, two decades later, the University of California Los Angeles World Policy Analysis Center has issued a report examining what the Beijing Platform for Action has achieved. From Los Angeles, Elizabeth Lee has more.
Video

Video Endangered Hawaiian Birds Get Second Chance

Of the world's nearly 9,900 bird species, 13 percent are threatened with extinction, according to BirdLife International. Among them are two Hawaiian honeycreepers - tiny birds that live in the forest canopy, and, as the name implies, survive on nectar from tropical flowers. Scientists at the San Diego Zoo report they have managed to hatch half a dozen of their chicks in captivity, raising hopes that the birds will flutter back from the brink of extinction. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Exhibit Brings Renaissance Master Out of the Shadows

The National Gallery of Art in Washington has raised the curtain on one of the most intriguing painters of the High Renaissance. Mostly ignored after his death in the early 1500s, Italian master Piero di Cosimo is now claiming his place alongside the best-known artists of the period. VOA’s Ardita Dunellari reports.
Video

Video Sidemen to Famous Blues Artists Record Their Own CD

Legendary blues singer BB King was briefly hospitalized last week and the 87-year-old “King of the Blues” may not be touring much anymore. But some of the musicians who have played with him and other blues legends have now released their own CD in an attempt to pass the torch to younger fans... and put their own talents out front as well. VOA’s Greg Flakus has followed this project over the past year and filed this report from Houston.
Video

Video Iran-Saudi Rivalry Is Stoking Conflict in Yemen

Iran has proposed a peace plan to end the conflict in Yemen, but the idea has received little support from regional rivals like Saudi Arabia. They accuse Tehran of backing the Houthi rebels, who have forced Yemen’s president to flee to Riyadh, and have taken over swaths of Yemen. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA, analysts say the conflict is being fueled by the Sunni-Shia rivalry between the two regional powers.

VOA Blogs