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

Video Anti-Muslim Sponsor of Texas Cartoon Contest Draws Ire

Pamela Geller's supporters say she speaks truth about sensitive topic, while critics say she preaches 'that Islam is inherently evil' More

East Meets West in Exhibition Showing Chinese Influence on Fashion

Metropolitan Museum of Art exhibition juxtaposes influence of art, imagery and culture, from Imperial China to the present day, on Western fashion and design More

South Africa Begins New Love Affair With Vinyl Records

Enthusiasts say the 'rebirth' of vinyl is resulting in a rebirth of music in South Africa 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.
Mass Grave Exposes Entrenched Trafficking in Thailandi
X
May 05, 2015 5:50 PM
Police in southern Thailand have found two more camps believed to have held human trafficking victims -- one containing a buried skeleton. This comes just days after officials announced arrests in connection with the grisly discovery of 26 bodies in a mass grave at another location. Officials suspect as many as 400 mostly ethnic Rohingya from Myanmar were being held for ransom at the remote camp near the Malaysian border. Steve Sandford reports on developments in the case.
Video

Video Mass Grave Exposes Entrenched Trafficking in Thailand

Police in southern Thailand have found two more camps believed to have held human trafficking victims -- one containing a buried skeleton. This comes just days after officials announced arrests in connection with the grisly discovery of 26 bodies in a mass grave at another location. Officials suspect as many as 400 mostly ethnic Rohingya from Myanmar were being held for ransom at the remote camp near the Malaysian border. Steve Sandford reports on developments in the case.
Video

Video Russia's 'Victory Day' Glory Over Nazis Overshadowed by Ukraine

ussia is preparing to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, known since the Soviet era as “The Great Patriotic War,” with a massive parade on May 9th of military hardware and millions of medals handed out to veterans or their relatives. But critics say the Soviet-style display of power and nationalism overshadows tragic scars during and after the war that still influence politics and foreign policy, especially in the current Ukraine crisis.
Video

Video WWII Anniversary Brings Old Friends and New Worries

The 70th anniversary of the end of World War II has special significance, with Russia becoming more assertive in Ukraine and sending its military planes to the edges of western countries’ airspace. Changes in the geostrategic balance and the transatlantic relationship are felt across the continent, not least in German towns that have hosted U.S. military bases since the defeat of Nazi Germany. VOA’s Al Pessin visited Schweinfurt, Germany, where a large base closed last year.
Video

Video Abraham Lincoln Funeral Re-created for 150th Civil War Anniversary

Over the last four years, commemorative events to mark the 150th anniversary of the U.S. Civil War have brought thousands of visitors to battlefields and historic landmarks across the country. As VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports from the Midwest state of Illinois, the final event in the Civil War's sesquicentennial honors the final journey home of the slain American President, Abraham Lincoln.
Video

Video Campaign Raises Money to 'Uncuff' Journalists

Beginning Sunday – World Press Freedom Day – the Committee to Protect Journalists, a private U.S. group, is launching a campaign to bring attention to their plight and encourage efforts to free them. Deborah Block reports.
Video

Video Volunteers Pull Together to Aid Baltimore Riot Victims

Calm has returned to Baltimore, Maryland, after authorities lifted an overnight curfew imposed almost a week ago to stem the rioting that followed the funeral of Freddie Gray - the 25-year-old black man who died of spinal injuries suffered while in police custody. Six police officers, three of them African-American, have been charged in connection with his death. Baltimore is now trying to get back to normal, in part with the help of volunteers who responded to calls to help those in the city'
Video

Video From Aleppo To Berlin: Band of Brothers Escapes Civil War

Hundreds of thousands of Syrians have fled the civil war in their country and journeyed to Europe by boat across the Mediterranean. It is a terrifying ordeal with dangers at every turn. A group of Syrian brothers and their friends describe their ordeal as they try to reach Germany. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports. ...
Video

Video Rural Nepal Suffers Brunt of Quake’s Devastation

Nepal is still coming to grips with the full extent of the devastation and misery caused by last Saturday’s magnitude 7.8 earthquake. Some of the hardest-hit communities have been cut off by landslides making it difficult to assess the precise toll. A VOA News crew has been among the first to reach a few of the smaller, remote communities. Correspondent Steve Herman reports from the Sindhupolchak district, east of Kathmandu, which suffered greatly in Nepal’s worst quake in more than 80 years.
Video

Video Obama Praises Work of 3 Immigrant Journalists

President Barack Obama met with three immigrant journalists at the White House Friday to praise them for their work ahead of World Press Freedom Day, May 3. In attendance: Dieu Cay (his pen name) a blogger from Vietnam recently released from prison; Lily Mengesha from Ethiopia who was harassed and detained for exposing the marrying off of young girls as child brides, and Fatima Tlisova, an ethnic Circassian from the North Caucasus region of Russia, who works for VOA's Russian Service.
Video

Video Middle East Atheist Channel Defies Taboo

In Egypt, a deeply religious country in a deeply religious region, atheism is not only taboo, it is dangerous. It is sometimes even criminal to publicly declare nonbelief. Despite the danger, one group of activists is pushing back with a new online channel that defends the right not to believe. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Nepal Quake Survivors Tell Their Stories

Against all hope, rescuers have found a few more survivors of the devastating earthquake that hit Nepal last Saturday. Mountain climbers and hikers trapped in remote places also have been airlifted to safety, and aid is finally reaching people in the areas closest to the quake's epicenter. Survivors and rescuers are now recounting their experience. Zlatica Hoke has this story.
Video

Video Lessons for Germany, Europe Remain on Anniversary of WWII's End

The 70th anniversary of the end of World War II will be marked May 8-9 in all European countries except Germany, which lost the war. How is the war viewed there, and what impact is it still having? From Berlin, VOA’s Al Pessin reports.
Video

Video Nepal Town Destroyed By Quake Counts Itself Lucky

Foreign search teams on Wednesday began reaching some of the communities outside Kathmandu that suffered worse damage than Nepal’s capital from last Saturday’s massive earthquake. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman is in Sankhu - a town of about 10,000 people - where there is relief the death toll is not higher despite widespread destruction.
Video

Video Somali Hotel Chain Owner Strives to Make a Difference

Many in the Somali diaspora are returning home to make a new life despite the continuing risks. Since 2011 when a military campaign against Al-Shabab militants began making progress, members of the diaspora community have come back to open hospitals, schools, hotels, restaurants and other businesses. Abdulaziz Billow in Mogadishu profiles the owner of a chain of hotels and restaurants who is helping to bring change to the once-deadly Somali capital.
Video

Video Child Migrants Cross Mediterranean Alone, Face Unknown Future

Among the thousands of migrants making the deadly journey by boat to Europe, there are unaccompanied girls and boys. Some have been sent by relatives to earn money; others are orphaned or fleeing war. From a shelter for young migrants in the Sicilian town of Caltagirone, VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.

Poll: Baltimore Police Charged

Poll archive

VOA Blogs