By Yonatan Pomrenze, NBC News Producer
MOSCOW – For fans of espionage news, this week in Russia was a busy one.
It started Monday with Russian media reports that President Dmitry Medvedev granted awards to members of Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service. The president’s press secretary said that among them were the 10 Russian agents who were arrested in the U.S. and swapped this summer for four men accused of spying for the West.
Tuesday, though, brought even bigger news.
The Russian version of Maxim magazine announced that it had the first interview with the most (in)famous of the 10 Russian agents, Anna Chapman. The magazine said that the interview and a revealing photo shoot would be in its next issue, which would hit newsstands here Thursday. A teaser video went up on Maxim’s website, and a longer, more detailed video was promised for the day that the magazine came out.
Thursday morning came, but the magazine didn’t.
“People have been asking for it all morning,” said one of sellers at the nine newsstands I went to in search of the magazine.
Friday, though, the issue and the new video arrived.
However, if you were looking for some insight into the inner workings of the Russian intelligence community, or about what exactly the agents were hoping to achieve in America, Maxim’s interview is a disappointment – questions about any of those topics were off-limits.
Instead the interview focused on what Maxim knows best: flirting and seduction. But that doesn’t mean Chapman’s answers weren’t still cryptic and vague. For example:
Q: Have you ever been so in love, that it made you do foolish things?
A: I’ll answer like this: Even if I knew the world was ending tomorrow, I would still plant an apple tree today.
Men’s mag fluff or hidden meaning? That’s for the reader to decide. Trying to pin down Chapman’s espionage credentials proved equally elusive:
Q: Which men are easiest to seduce? Russians, British or Americans?
A: Seduction, just like love and friendship, are the same everywhere. Most men can be divided into three categories: primitive – who need only sex. Smarter ones – who want to be loved. And the third group – those, who don’t only want to be loved, but who also want this love to be the biggest and most wonderful feeling in their life. With them it’s the most difficult, but it’s my favorite category.
As much as the other nine agents have stayed out of the limelight, Chapman seems to be launching a very public – and revealing (the cover and interview featured images of her in states of undress) – campaign to stay in it.
The Russian blogosphere is rife with speculation about her future. Will she become an actress and play herself in the story of the spies? Or will she become a politician with Putin’s dominant United Russia party?
Her website so far just says “Coming Soon” over an enigmatic drawing of her with cryptic numbers coming down like rain.
Like the Maxim interview, it’s long on promise but short on details as to what’s next for Russia’s most famous spy.