Alleged Russian agent Anna Chapman could have warmed up any Cold War night

Accused Russian spy Anna Chapman became an instant Web sensation following the release of photos posted on the Russian social-networking Web site "Odnoklassniki," or Classmates.
By Monica Hesse
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, July 1, 2010

There were 11 alleged Russian agents arrested this week, under accusations that they'd been living as Americans while reporting back to the mother country.

But mostly we care about the hot one.

Ever since photos of Anna Chapman began circulating online late Tuesday, the Internet at large has been foaming, frothing, fanatic for details about the reported 28-year-old secret agent/Maxim model look-alike who specialized in sultry-eyed, pouty-lipped, come-hither stares. Da, da, da!

News sites immediately uploaded photo galleries. Someone said "Bond Girl" and we all immediately began casting her biopic in our minds. Scarlett Johansson -- no wait, Jessica Biel!

Someone said that she drank Alma De Agave tequila and almost immediately the company issued an official statement explaining its role in Chapman's drinking habits: "Russell Terlecki, President of the East Coast Operations . . . met her on the Seastreak going to Atlantic Highlands, NJ. She loved Alma De Agave tequila."

She had a Facebook account (and why not? In America, the best way to fly under the radar is to fly over it. Wouldn't it be much more suspect if she weren't on Facebook?), which we immediately began obsessing over.

Unlucky for us: Much of it was written in Cyrillic.

Lucky for us: Chapman's friend list was available for public consumption. Apparently, she didn't understand Facebook's new privacy controls any better than the rest of us.

Phone calls with several of her acquaintances reveal a woman with a head for business (and a bod for sin? Is Anna Chapman the Working Girl of 2010?) -- a woman who single-mindedly pursued her goal of combining real estate with Internet technology.

"She was very modern, energetic, reasonably worldly," says Dan Johnson, the British founder of a real estate Web site, who met Chapman when she suggested a possible partnership between Johnson's site and hers,, which focused on Russian listings. They corresponded for several months and met when Chapman was passing through London. "She was flying around the world, setting up businesses. It's not someone with a lazy mind-set who's going to be doing that."

Arthur Welf, a Russian journalist who first met Chapman in 2008 when they both attended a real estate conference, says that Chapman was looking for funding to develop a New York equivalent of her site and was passionately excited about the project. "I would think she would have no time for other things like espionage," Welf says. "She was working 24 hours around the clock." He believes Chapman is innocent.

"She's always brainstorming, always trying to create new ideas," says Alena Popova, a Russian businesswoman who met Chapman at the Global Technology Symposium earlier this year in San Francisco. Popova was so impressed with Chapman's poise that later, when they met up in New York, she filmed an interview with her, Chapman providing tips for creating successful start-ups.

CONTINUED     1        >

© 2010 The Washington Post Company