Russia's 10 spies chose different paths at home
MOSCOW (AP) — One is a compulsive socialite who hosts a TV show. Others landed lucrative jobs at state-run companies. Many have simply vanished from sight.
The 10 Russian sleeper agents arrested last year in the United States and deported to Russia in the biggest spy swap since the Cold War have taken vastly different paths since returning home to a hero's welcome.
The FBI's release Monday of a trove of material related to "Ghost Stories," the operation that busted the ring, has brought the spy saga back into the spotlight, but the agents have mostly taken pains to keep their lives low-key.
The exception is Anna Chapman. The 29-year-old posed for the cover of a men's magazine in sexy lingerie and has promoted everything from the occult to venture capitalism. As recently as Sunday, she turned up at a Moscow fashion show.
Nataliya Pereverzeva, known in the U.S. as Patricia Mills, was appointed adviser on foreign affairs to the Russian oil pipeline monopolist, Transneft. Andrei Bezrukov, who used the assumed name Donald Heathfield, landed a job with Russia's top oil company, Rosneft, as a foreign affairs adviser to the chief executive.
Little else about the spies' lives is likely to become known anytime soon. Russia's foreign intelligence agency, the SVR, does not look favorably on former agents talking to the public.
"Any attempt to track them down would be pointless," said Andrei Soldatov, a Russian journalist who co-authored a book on the Russian intelligence services.
The agents, most of them Russian citizens, were hailed as heroes upon their return in July 2010.
President Dmitry Medvedev bestowed the highest state award on them during a Kremlin ceremony. Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who served as a KGB agent in East Germany in the 1980s, met with the agents and sang patriotic songs with them.
The SVR almost certainly has provided for its former agents. Soldatov says they have probably been given apartments in a special SVR complex in Moscow and the agency was obliged under Russian law to find them new employment.
Only Chapman has been allowed to socialize, appear on television and exploit her spying fame.
"Unlike the others, Chapman wasn't a trained officer," Soldatov said, drawing on his reading of U.S. court documents. Her knowledge of the activities of Russian intelligence operations in the U.S. appears to have been limited, he said, making her exposure to the public potentially less harmful.
When the 10 Russian sleeper spies were arrested, the risque photos that Chapman had posted on Facebook caused a sensation and told the story of an ambitious young real estate agent out to conquer the city.
But like the other nine, Chapman was nowhere to be seen in the first few months after she was flown to Moscow.
Her first public appearance was during a surprise visit to the Baikonur space center on the steppes of Kazakhstan for the launch of a crew to the International Space Station. She tried to hide from the cameras, but her picture made the cover of Russian tabloids the following day.
Chapman has been more friendly to photographers since then, stripping down to lingerie for a photo shoot for a men's magazine and posing for photographers at the social events she attends.
In the past year, Chapman has been hired to advise the chief executive of a state-controlled bank, hosted a television show on the unexplained mysteries of the occult and taken over as editor of a weekly magazine about venture capital.
Asked the name of the magazine in a recent interview, she replied — "it's venture-something."
One question Chapman still avoids is her work in the United States, saying she's "not supposed to talk about it."
Her star power may be fading, however. Columnists from social pages ridicule her revealing outfits while bloggers laugh at her gaffes. On a recent visit to St. Petersburg University to give a lecture on leadership on behalf of a pro-Kremlin youth organization, she was booed by students who told her to leave and to take her PR stunts elsewhere.
The only couple among the sleeper spies who never pretended to be Americans, Juan Lazaro and Vicky Pelaez, reportedly have parted ways since their deportation.
Pelaez, a well-known journalist, left Russia for her native Peru, where she was cited as saying she had never spied for Russia and had no idea that her husband was a Russian agent. Her husband, whose real name is Mikhail Vasenkov, claimed to have been born in Uruguay.
"I am a nearly 60-year-old woman. I love my companion. But I may never forgive him for not being straight with me," she said in a February interview with the Peruvian magazine Caretas.
She now writes a column for the Moscow News, an English-language newspaper published by a Russian state news agency.
In her first column, Pelaez said "constant support from the Russian government and its concern about my health and the well-being of my family have brought me out of despair and given me hope for the future and a new life."