Anna Chapman, the flame-haired Russian spy expelled from the US along with nine comrades last summer, has launched a flashy website to promote her sprouting new careers in television, modeling, charity and – if the rumors are true – a political run for the State Duma this December as a candidate for Vladimir Putin's United Russia party.
On the new website's professional-looking home page, graced with an intimate photo of the sloe-eyed former secret agent, Ms. Chapman says that being outed as a spy helped her to grow up and discover a sense of duty to humankind.
"Before returning to Moscow in July 2010, I aspired to personal harmony and was more concerned with my own happiness," she writes. "But in due course my ideology changed. I came to understand that fulfillment in life comes from helping those around me. The day that I returned I consider to be my second birthday."
Chapman has obliterated the old KGB dictum that unmasked spies should fade into the sunset, leaving only their legends behind. She's posed wearing lingerie – James Bond-style, with a gun – in the Russian edition of Maxim, launched her own iPhone app, made a series of flamboyant public appearances, and lent her name to half a dozen different consumer products ranging from clothing to vodka.
This year she began hosting a weekly TV show, "Mysteries of the World, with Anna Chapman," and created a charity for children with sight problems.
As a leading activist of the Kremlin-sponsored youth movement Young Guard, Chapman is slated to travel later this month to the Kuril Islands, which are subject to a long-standing territorial dispute with Japan. There she will take part in hoisting a huge Russian flag that will be visible from the Japanese mainland.
But the biggest buzz about Chapman in the Russian media is that she is likely to be included as a candidate on the ruling United Russia party's list for Duma elections at the end of this year. That would seem to ensure her a seat in the Russian parliament, alongside many other celebrities the party has drafted in recent years to spruce up its otherwise dour and bureaucratic public image.
"It's true, we used to condemn our old spies to anonymity in the past," says Sergei Mikheyev, director of the independent Center for Political Assessments in Moscow. "By making Anna Chapman into a big star it's as if we're desperately trying to demonstrate the opposite. But is this doubtful personality the kind of example we want to promote? I wonder if it isn't just a bit too much."