In her first foreign-language interview since she was arrested as a spy, undercover bombshell Anna Chapman was coy about whether she had ever engaged in espionage for Russia.
"Who told you I was an agent?" Chapman asked an interviewer for the BBC, though she pled guilty to espionage in the U.S. last summer and was sent back to Russia as part of a massive spy swap. "I will never deny and I will never confirm the fact."
Ever since her return to Russia, the flame-haired 28-year-old has turned her notoriety into a lucrative and varied career in her native land. She has already appeared in various men's magazines and accepted a high position in the country's ruling political party, but the BBC interview was timed to promote her latest venture, a regular weekly show on Russian television.
"Mysteries of the World With Anna Chapman" airs weekly on REN-TV, a private channel. Wearing a little black dress, Chapman was prominently featured in a promotional shot on the station's web site, which also said "I reveal all mysteries, if you have the courage."
Chapman told the BBC she had never considered being on television. "I never saw myself as a TV star," said Chapman. "Most people they dream of being a TV star, like they dream of fame. I never thought of that."
She said, however, that she would never feature her own personal story on "Mysteries of the World."
Chapman, born Anya Kushchenko, and nine other members of a Russian spy ring were arrested in the U.S. in the summer of 2010. She and her fellow spies all pleaded guilty to espionage in a Manhattan courthouse in July. They were immediately flown to Vienna to be exchanged for accused Western agents held by Russia in the largest U.S.-Russia spy swap since the Cold War.
Chapman has continued to attract attention since her repatriation. She was hired as an advisor to a Russian bank in October. At a ceremony in Moscow in December, Chapman was appointed a leader of the youth branch of Vladimir Putin's political party. Candid nude photos that an ex-boyfriend snapped of Chapman appeared in the January issue of Playboy. Other nude and semi-nude photos of Chapman appeared in the British and U.S. press last summer, and Chapman posed in leather and lingerie for other magazines.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev bestowed awards on Chapman and the nine other members of the ring in 2010. A Kremlin spokeswoman told reporters that "top state awards were presented" to a number of officers in the SVR – Russia's foreign intelligence service -- including the "intelligence agents who worked in the United States and returned to Russia in July."
Chapman has been named head of a new subdivision within the Young Guard, the youth branch of Putin's United Russia party.
The Young Guard is strongly pro-government, often holding street demonstrations, and was criticized in November after a Russian investigative journalist was badly beaten. Oleg Kashin, who had reported on opposition to a highway planned for a Moscow forest, was attacked on a Moscow street by unidentified assailants. Kashin had been criticized by the Young Guard on its web site. The Young Guard had published a picture of Kashin with the label "Will Be Punished," but condemned the attack on Kashin and denied any involvement.