Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Spies Like Us

The ten Russians recently expelled from the United States on charges that they were spying for the Motherland recently had an important visitor, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. The BBC reported on Sunday that Putin visited with 10 of the 11 deported Russians, including perhaps the world’s most famous redhead, Anna Chapman – it’s of course worth noting here that Putin began his career as an officer in that most quintessential spy agency, the KGB. Putin apparently removed any doubt that the ten deportees were engaged in espionage, the BBC quotes the Prime Minister as saying in part: “…(to) do what are you told to do for the interest of your motherland for many years without counting on diplomatic immunity.” Putin also threw in a couple of ominous notes – he said that they all sang “patriotic” songs from the Soviet-era (not exactly the sort of thing that you want to do when you’re trying to play down the Cold War feeling of this whole incident…) and that the ten were exposed by an act of “betrayal,” noting that in the spy world betrayers usually meet bad ends. When asked if this meant the Russian government planned any more official action in the case, Putin said no, adding that: “they [spies, presumably] live by their own laws, and all special services are well aware of these laws.”

Of course it is entirely possible that a lot of Putin’s tough talk was meant for consumption at home, where the spies – well, Chapman at least – have been embraced by the country. Russia’s RIA Novosti news agency reported that Anna Chapman’s Facebook page was the single most-visited social networking site in Russia last month, with many Russians leaving messages and words of support for her. Meanwhile, a newspaper in Chapman’s hometown of Volgograd is sponsoring a songwriting contest for ballads in her honor. There were also rumors last week that Chapman was trying to sell a story of her life, something she denied. Part of the agreement that saw her, and the others, swapped and sent back to Russia was that none of them would be able to profit financially by selling their stories.
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