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 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

800-Pound Man Determined to Slim Down

Man says he was kicked out of hospital for ordering pizza; wants to be an actor More

Australia Prepares to Resettle 12,000 Syrian Refugees

Preference will be given to refugees from persecuted minorities, and the first group is expected to arrive before late December More

S. African Miners Seek Class Action Suit Against Gold Mines

The estimated 100,000 say say they contracted the lung diseases silicosis and tuberculosis in the mines More

This forum has been closed.
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.
Amnesty Accuses Saudi Coalition of ‘War Crimes’ in Yemeni
Henry Ridgwell
October 12, 2015 4:03 PM
The human rights group Amnesty International has accused the Saudi-led coalition of war crimes in airstrikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen. Henry Ridgwell reports the group says hundreds of civilians have been killed in strikes on residential areas.

Video Amnesty Accuses Saudi Coalition of ‘War Crimes’ in Yemen

The human rights group Amnesty International has accused the Saudi-led coalition of war crimes in airstrikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen. Henry Ridgwell reports the group says hundreds of civilians have been killed in strikes on residential areas.

Video No Resolution in Sight to US House Speaker Drama

Uncertainty grips the U.S. Congress, where no consensus replacement has emerged to succeed Republican House Speaker John Boehner after his surprise resignation announcement. Half of Congress is effectively leaderless weeks before America risks defaulting on its national debt and enduring another partial government shutdown.

Video New Art Exhibit Focuses on Hope

Out of struggle and despair often comes hope. That idea is behind a new art exhibit at the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland. "The Big Hope Show" features 25 artists, some of whom overcame trauma and loss. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Columbus Day Still Generates Controversy as US Holiday

The second Monday of October is Columbus Day in the United States, honoring explorer Christopher Columbus and his discovery of the Americas. The achievement is a source of pride for many, but for some the holiday is marked by controversy. Adrianna Zhang has more.

Video Anger Simmers as Turks Begin to Bury Blast Victims

The Turkish army carried out new air strikes on Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) targets on Sunday, a day after the banned group announced a unilateral cease fire. The air raids apparently are in retaliation for the Saturday bombing in Turkey's capital Ankara that killed at least 95 people and wounded more than 200 others. But as Zlatica Hoke reports, there are suspicions that Islamic State is involved.

Video Bombings a Sign of Turkey’s Deep Troubles

Turkey has begun a three-day period of mourning following Saturday’s bomb attacks in the capital, Ankara, that killed nearly 100 people. With contentious parliamentary elections three weeks away, the attacks highlight the challenges Turkey is facing as it struggles with ethnic friction, an ongoing migrant crisis, and growing tensions with Russia. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Afghanistan’s Progress Aided by US Academic Center

Recent combat in Afghanistan has shifted world attention back to the central Asian nation’s continuing civil war and economic challenges. But, while there are many vexing problems facing Afghanistan’s government and people, a group of academics in Omaha, Nebraska has kept a strong faith in the nation’s future through programs to improve education. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Omaha, Nebraska.

Video House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdraws

The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video German, US Officials Investigate Volkswagen

German officials have taken steps to restore some of the reputation their car industry has lost after a recent Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal. Authorities have searched Volkswagen headquarters and other locations in an effort to identify the culprits in the creation of software that helps cheat on emission tests. Meanwhile, a group of lawmakers in Washington held a hearing to get to the bottom of the cheating strategy that was first discovered in the United States. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Why Are Gun Laws So Hard for Congress to Tackle?

Since taking office, President Barack Obama has spoken out or issued statements about 15 mass shootings. The most recent shooting, in which 10 people were killed at a community college, sparked outrage over the nation's gun laws. But changing those laws isn't as easy as many think. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.

Video In 'He Named Me Malala,' Guggenheim Finds Normal in Extraordinary

Davis Guggenheim’s documentary "He Named Me Malala" offers a probing look into the life of 18-year-old Malala Yousafsai, the Pakistani teenager who, in 2012, was shot in the head by the Taliban for standing up for her right to education in her hometown in Pakistan's Swat Valley. Guggenheim shows how, since then, Malala has become a symbol not as a victim of brutal violence, but as an advocate for girls’ education throughout the world. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.

Video Paintable Solar Cells May Someday Replace Silicon-Based Panels

Solar panels today are still factory-manufactured, with the use of some highly toxic substances such as cadmium chloride. But a researcher at St. Mary’s College, Maryland, says we are close to being able to create solar panels by painting them on a suitable surface, using nontoxic solutions. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs