She was beautiful and she was dangerous — well, not so much — but at least enough for the FBI to spend years trying to capture Russian agent Anna Chapman, aka Anya Kushchenko, and her cronies.
In surveillance videos released Monday by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the spy can be seen working to get a foothold into American society by hobnobbing with consulate officials, infiltrating posh parties and using her charms as opposed to her wits.
After watching Kushchenko, along with 10 other Russian agents for ten years, U.S. authorities were led to move in and arrest all members of the spy network because of one video. It was a recording of a drop with an FBI agent posting as a Russian consulate employee who met with Chapman/Kushchenko at a New York coffee shop in June of 2010.
There, Kushchenko makes her drop, though unknowingly, on camera. It may have been the end of the government sting operation, for the incident spooked the Russians, and U.S. agents swooped in that day and busted the entire gang.
Here, Spy videos show other FBI evidence: A brush pass in a train station; picking up items at drops in Virginia and New York, an innocent walk in New York's Columbus Circle.
The efforts represent a new Russian attempt to gain entrance into the highest levels of American society through the time-tried use of charm, beauty — and modern electronic techniques — if maybe not so much intelligence.
No classified information was ever stolen. Femme fatale Anna Chapman was arrested, but the scenario may not be worthy of a John le Carre Hollywood spy thriller. The Russian agents were so dumb, or the FBI so smart, that the Russians came to believe the U.S. government agents were actually their handlers.
After a U.S.–Russia spy exchange, Anya Kushchenko ended up in Moscow, a lingerie model and corporate spokeswoman representing a new breed of Russian spies adapting to the world after the parting of the Iron Curtain.