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

    Saudi Arabia’s New Female Politicians in the Other Room 

    Many in Saudi Arabia say elected representatives should share unsegregated spaces; according to a recent survey, more than half the Saudi population, both men and women, prefer to work in a segregated place

    Russia Not ‘Apologetic’ for Syria Airstrikes

    With Moscow criticized for targeting armed opponents of President Assad, Russia’s UN envoy says his country ‘acting in a very transparent manner’

    Pakistan Warns of Islamic State's Growing Reach

    Aftab Sultan, General Director General of Intelligence Bureau (IB), briefed Senate Committee in closed hearing, saying that IS-linked groups have been expanding in Pakistan

    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.
    Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growthi
    X
    February 10, 2016 5:54 AM
    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growth

    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Civil Rights Pioneer Remembers Struggle for Voting Rights

    February is Black History Month in the United States. The annual, month-long national observance pays tribute to important people and events that shaped the history of African Americans. VOA's Chris Simkins reports how one man fought against discrimination to help millions of blacks obtain the right to vote
    Video

    Video Jordanian Theater Group Stages Anti-Terrorism Message

    The lure of the self-styled “Islamic State” has many parents worried about their children who may be susceptible to the organization’s online propaganda. Dozens of Muslim communities in the Middle East are fighting back -- giving young adults alternatives to violence. One group in Jordan is using dramatic expression a send a family message. Mideast Broadcasting Network correspondent Haider Al Abdali shared this report with VOA. It’s narrated by Bronwyn Benito
    Video

    Video Migrant Crisis Fuels Debate Over Britain’s Future in EU

    The migrant crisis in Europe is fueling the debate in Britain ahead of a referendum on staying in the European Union that may be held this year. Prime Minister David Cameron warns that leaving the EU could lead to thousands more migrants arriving in the country. Meanwhile, tension is rising in Calais, France, where thousands of migrants are living in squalid camps. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Valentine's Day Stinks for Lebanese Clowns

    This weekend, on Valentine's Day in Lebanon, love is not the only thing in the air. More than half a year after the country's trash crisis began, the stink of uncollected garbage remains on the streets. Step forward "Clown Me In," a group of clowns who use their skills for activism. Before the most romantic day of the year the clowns have released their unusual take on love in Lebanon -- in a bid to keep the pressure up and get the trash off the streets. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Families Flee Aleppo for Kurdish Regions in Syria

    Not all who flee the fighting in Aleppo are trying to cross the border into Turkey. A VOA reporter caught up with several families heading for Kurdish-held areas of northern Syria.
    Video

    Video Rocky Year Ahead for Nigeria Amid Oil Price Crash

    The global fall in the price of oil has rattled the economies of many petroleum exporters, and Africa’s oil king Nigeria is no exception. As Chris Stein reports from Lagos, analysts are predicting a rough year ahead for the continent’s top producer of crude.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.