Anna Chapman, the bombshell Russian spy, has a new website. It's only in Russian... but as a Russian speaker who spent 15 years as a reporter in Russia, I can try to translate this curious little glimpse into Chapman's world.
Anyone can sign on to www.annachapman.ru and enjoy a multitude of official photos, no matter what any language you speak. Check out the "personal photos" section, on the bottom left of the home page, for a slide show of Chapman looking sultry and sporty.But the part you need Russian to understand is the contacts section. It lists five, count 'em, five different press people to keep the Anna Chapman juggernaut moving along:
- One for "charities, orphans and volunteer groups."
- One for questions of "joint projects, investments and innovations."
- One for "questions about her show on the Russian tv network Ren-TV."
- One for advertising and "product placement" for her show, which is called "Secrets of the World."
- And one for "questions of a commercial nature and PR."
Note that not one of those five press officers seems to be the point person for interview requests that don't involve commerce or public relations -- say, ones from ordinary journalists. It's all about making money.
That seems at odds with the rather humble personal message Chapman gives on the home page of the site. "Before I returned to Moscow in July 2010, I strove to achieve personal harmony and was more concerned with my own happiness," she writes. "But in time my ideology changed. I understand that we grasp the fullness and meaning of life in our desire and efforts to help those around us."
Anna's already somewhat overexposed in Russia ...pun intended. She posed nearly nude for the Russian version of Maxim, and has been working as eye candy for a Russian bank.
What's really much more interesting and telling is how Chapman been embraced by officialdom since returning to Russia in last summer's Soviet-style spy swap. She's become the poster girl for patriotism.
When I was in Moscow for New Year's, I was awestruck to see that Anna was invited on national television to give a toast to her countrymen just minutes before the Russian president himself came on to usher in the New Year. You don't get that kind of place of honor unless the men in the Kremlin approve.
And now those same officials have asked Chapman to run for the Russian parliament when elections are next held in December. Since the Russian system works off party lists rather than by the kind of direct elections we have for Congress in America, she'll be a shoo-in as long as President Dmitri Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin put her towards the top of the slate. Chapman has already been working for the youth wing of their political party, which is getting her another big shot of publicity.
Anna might have been a bush-league spy, but she has certainly learned how to be a first-rate self-promoter. And her new site shows she's now got a big team to help.
Check it out...or if espionage is not your thing, then go to www.annachapman.com, which is the site for a Florida doll maker. That website sells some lovely hand-sculpted dolls but, surprisingly, not one of them looks Russian.
For more information on my guidebook for young journalists co-written with my CBS News colleague Mike Wallace, please go to www.heatandlight.org.
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