MOSCOW – Russian spy Anna Chapman has revealed some secrets in her first TV interview: She has a passion for shooting and wants a lion cub as a pet — though she remained coy on the job that made her an international tabloid star.
Chapman was one of ten Russian sleeper agents exposed in the United States and deported this summer in the biggest spy swap since the Cold War. Russians have been waiting for her to finally speak publicly after months of teasing the media, including with a magazine photo spread and an enigmatic appearance at a Russian rocket launch in Kazakhstan where she brushed aside questions from a reporter.
The red-haired 28-year-old said on a talk show broadcast Thursday night on Channel One state television that she considers the failure of her mission a chance for new opportunities — though she declined to give details on what exactly her mission was.
She has become the new celebrity face of a Moscow bank that works with aerospace industries and joined the leadership of the youth wing of the main pro-Kremlin party. She told the TV program that she plans to have her own TV show next year.
Chapman stripped down to lingerie for a photo spread in the Russian edition of Maxim, appearing on the cover of the November issue under the caption "For Your Eyes Only" — the title of a 1981 James Bond movie.
Asked who her favorite James Bond actor is, she named Sean Connery without hesitation. She also said she admires Angelina Jolie, who played a suspected Russian sleeper agent in this year's "Salt" — and hinted she has her own action star abilities.
"I'm a very good shot," Chapman said. "I have a passion for it, and I love going to shooting ranges."
Wearing a long bright green gown with black stockings and high heels, Chapman smiled as the hosts played images of her reading verses in first grade and attending a ballet class and a gym.
Chapman said she still starts every morning with exercise: "I can't function normally if I don't do sports, it's very important for me."
Her relatives, friends and school teachers described Chapman as a very sharp and determined kid. One of her school friends recalled how she once vowed to marry a British man and move to the United Kingdom — a wish that eventually came true.
Another wish was granted more quickly. Asked by the host what her dream was, she answered that she has been obsessed with having a pet lion cub, even if she can only keep it for three months before it becomes too dangerous.
With that, a lion cub was led into the studio on a leash, and Champan patted him as the audience sang a patriotic song from a Soviet-era spy movie that Prime Minister Vladimir Putin once called an inspiration for joining the KGB.
Putin sang the same song when he met with the 10 sleeper agents after their deportation. Putin, a 16-year old KGB veteran, said the spies had been exposed by a fellow intelligence officer. The country's prime minister received a tiger cub as a birthday present two years ago — an obvious reference for Chapman.
Chapman kept mostly mum during the interview on the central reason for her popularity, refusing to confirm during the interview that she worked for Russian intelligence. At the same time, she responded to a question about the suspected traitor, saying she doesn't want to issue a judgment.
"I don't want to wish anything negative to anyone," she said. "I'm an absolutely happy person. I very quickly forget negative things which happen to me."