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How brazen agent Anna Chapman became the pin-up for Putin's thuggish Hitler Youth
By EDWARD LUCAS
Pin-up: The story of spy Anna 'Chapman' taught the West a lesson, and she now has a prominent position in Russia's Young Guard
Alluring, sexually voracious, schooled in the darkest of bedroom arts at KGB spy school: if Anna Chapman, Russiaâ€™s best-known spy since the British traitor Kim Philby, did not exist, the screenwriters for the next James Bond film would have to invent her.
Time was when Bondâ€™s Soviet female adversaries were anything but sexy: women like the fearsome torturer and assassin, Rosa Klebb.
In Vladimir Putinâ€™s modern Russia, however, the days of sour-faced Âharridans with flick-knife boots are over.
Abuse of power continues â€” the countryâ€™s best-known prisoner, the former tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky, has just been consigned to another lengthy jail sentence after a Soviet-style show trial. But Russia has become a go-getting capitalist country, with a concentration of glitz and glamour that puts the West to shame.
And nothing epitomises that better than the story of Anna Vasilyevna Kushchyenko, the flame-haired Kremlin temptress.
As Anna â€˜Chapmanâ€™ (a named she gained from her unwitting British husband), she taught the West a big lesson. Along with the other ten â€˜sleeperâ€™ spies unearthed in America last June, she lived inconspicuously among us, exemplifying the weakness of our society to penetration from the xenophobic, greedy and secretive gang that misrules Russia.
Ms Chapman was part of a carefully constructed intelligence network designed to reach the heart of our political and economic system. Some were active spies, running errands and scams on behalf of their spymasters in Moscow; others were talent-spotters who kept an eye out for potential recruits.
That network is now in ruins, thanks to Americaâ€™s FBI. But back in Russia, Ms Chapman is treated as a superstar and a national heroine.
She has just gained a leading position in the Young Guard (Molodaya Gvardiya), the youth wing of the United Russia party which utterly dominates the countryâ€™s politics â€” and is headed by prime Âminister Vladimir Putin.
It is hard to imagine the same story the other way round: a bright young MI6 officer is caught red-handed in Russia, exchanged in a dramatic high-level spy-swap and then returns to Britain to enjoy a karaoke evening with David Cameron. The officer poses topless for Loaded Âmagazine, gains a cushy job with British Aerospace and finally ends up as a top Young Conservative.
Worrying: The Young Guard are indoctrinated in anti-western propaganda at summer camps and have organised round-ups of illegal immigrants, harassed the British ambassador and blockaded the Estonian embassy
Intensely nationalistic: Anna takes part in the pro-Kremlin youth congress
Absurd? This is pretty much what Âhappened with Ms Chapman.
Indeed, the real story in Russia is still more bizarre. Mr Putinâ€™s Young Guard has little in common with the â€˜Tory Boyâ€™ world of aspiring Conservative politicians. The Russian outfit is a lot closer to the yobbish street-fighters of the English Defence League.
Like the sheep in George Orwellâ€™s ÂAnimal Farm, chanting â€˜four legs good, two legs badâ€™, Russiaâ€™s officially sanctioned youth organisations were set up ostensibly as grassroots support for the regime, but in actuality serve as its shock troops. Motivated mostly by career advancement, their numbers run into the tens of thousands â€” aged from their teens to their late 20s.
Contrary to their sanitised image, they are indoctrinated in anti-western propaganda at summer camps (where they are encouraged to â€˜procreate for the motherlandâ€™), blindly loyal to the regimeâ€™s leaders, nostalgic about the glories of the Soviet past and intensely nationalistic.
All critics, be they human rights Âactivists, journalists or the opposition, are presented as Nazi criminals â€” somewhat ironic given their own similarities to Âthe Hitler Youth.
The Young Guard have organised round-ups of illegal immigrants, harassed the British ambassador at his every public appearance, blockaded the Estonian embassy and organised counter-demonstrations to the pitiful protests of Russiaâ€™s beleaguered democratic opposition.
Well placed: Chapman's closeness to President Putin means she has a leading role in the Young Guard - and she is writing a book, although it is unlikely to reveal anything
Though theyâ€™ve operated as a shadowy presence for the past year or so, the indications are that theyâ€™re being revived ahead of this yearâ€™s parliamentary campaigns and next yearâ€™s presidential one. Then, itâ€™s likely that Mr Putin will brush aside his ineffectual sidekick, Dmitri Medvedev, and return to the job of Âpresident â€” a role he vacated in 2008.
â€˜Prepare yourselves for the polls, and train your brains and your muscles. You can always count on our support,â€™ Vladislav Surkov, the Kremlinâ€™s chief ideologist, told the youngsters last month.
The task for those â€˜musclesâ€™ is to beat back any contenders for power, sparing Russiaâ€™s rulers from the votersâ€™ wrath at the incompetence and corruption that has sidelined the country and crippled its development.
Ms Chapman is well-placed to play a leading role in Young Guard activities.
After returning from America in July last year, she and her fellow spies enjoyed a cosy evening with Mr Putin, singing Russian patriotic songs and swapping tales of undercover work. (Mr Putin himself, of course, was for years part of the Soviet KGBâ€™s elite foreign intelligence branch).
She has also posed for steamy pictures in a Russian menâ€™s magazine and is said to be writing a book, though this is unlikely to reveal much about her recruitment, training or tasking. She also gained a post last October at FundServiceBank, part of a shadowy conglomerate close to Russiaâ€™s secretive defence and space industries.
The bankâ€™s initials are the same as the KGBâ€™s main successor, Russiaâ€™s Federalnaya Sluzhba Bezopasnosti (Federal Security Service) FSB.
A coincidence? Maybe. But it hints at the overlap between business and politics in Russia, which creates colossal conflicts of interest â€” and is often blamed for the dismally ineffective public services and waste-ridden state spending. Those who toe the Kremlin line profit hugely; those who resist must flee into exile (usually in London) or risk jail.
Such was the fate of Mikhail Khodorkovsky, once Russiaâ€™s richest man. He used his oil and gas empire, Yukos, to challenge Mr Putinâ€™s grip on power. That cost him his company (now handed over to the regimeâ€™s cronies) and his freedom.
He was sentenced to eight years in a desolate prison in Siberia. As that term neared its end, the regime conjured up another charge â€” embezzlement. To nobodyâ€™s surprise, after a second farcical trial last month, Mr Khodorkovsky was found guilty once more.
The aim is to keep him in jail â€” and away from Russiaâ€™s voters. The stoical, pro-Western Mr Khodorkovsky could prove a powerful challenger to Mr Putin.
No sooner was Mr Khodorkovsky sentenced but the charismatic leader of the Russian democratic opposition, Boris Nemtsov, joined him behind bars â€” sentenced to 15 days jail for hooliganism after an equally farcical trial.
Spotlight: Anna has posed for steamy pictures in Russian Maxim
Mr Nemtsovâ€™s â€˜crimeâ€™ was to attend a small demonstration in Moscow, ironically in favour of freedom of assembly. Earlier this week, another 10 opposition activists were arrested in a further crackdown â€” leading to Amnesty Internationalâ€™s warnings about the growing number of â€˜arbitrary restrictionsâ€™ dogging the political system.
As Mr Khodorkovsky languishes in prison, Ms Chapman preens herself in the spotlight. But her new move into a national political role exemplifies the darkest side of modern Russia.
Young Guardâ€™s most sinister and controversial activities consist of naming â€˜journalist-traitorsâ€™ whom it considers disloyal to the ruling regime.
Russiaâ€™s mass media, particularly Âtelevision where most Russians get their news, are overwhelmingly pro-Kremlin. But weekly magazines, websites and daily newspapers â€” so long as they avoid some taboo subjects â€” still have brave journalists who try to investigate the colossal abuses of power that disfigure Russia.
It is a risky business. Russiaâ€™s human rights commissioner, Vladimir Lukin, says attacks on journalists â€˜have become systematicâ€™, largely because the assailants are never punished. Anna Politkovskaya, the crusading journalist gunned down in 2006, is just one of dozens who have paid with their lives for exposing the misdeeds of the rich and powerful in Russia.
Crackdown: Opponents to the government in Russia are being arrested and locked up following farcical trials to keep them from delivering their message
Last month, Oleg Kashin nearly joined her. He is a gutsy journalist who has reported closely on the campaign against a new motorway that threatens to destroy some of the last remaining natural forest outside Moscow. The construction is run by one of Mr Putinâ€™s buddies. Mr Kashin has also written widely on the thuggish behaviour of Young Guard and of its pro-Kremlin sister organisation, Nashi (â€˜Oursâ€™).
Earlier this year, a disillusioned member of Young Guard told a western news agency that the group has hired soccer fans and neo-Nazis to assault opposition leaders. Mr Kashinâ€™s investigations of these pro-Kremlin youth groups had already earned him multiple beatings and threats. But it wasnâ€™t enough to deter him. In August, the Young Guard delivered a public warning to Mr Kashin: his picture, stamped â€˜to be punishedâ€™, headed an article on their website denouncing him. In November, closed circuit TV caught two men beating him with an iron bar in a savage attack.
It was no random robbery. Mr Kashinâ€™s iPhone and wallet were not touched. Instead, his assailants made it clear that it was his journalism they wished to stop, pulping his hands, breaking his upper and lower jawbones and smashing his skull.
Miraculously, Mr Kashin survived. After a week in a coma, he has already started writing (though with nine fingers, not ten: one had to be amputated). A man claiming to be one of his attackers has broken silence, too, saying that they were contract hit-men, unaware of their targetâ€™s identity.
Young Guard cynically distanced itself from the beating, removing the incriminating article from its website, and replacing it with a call for the assailants to be punished.
But few are fooled, and the Young Guard badly need a PR boost.
Even while Mr Kashin was fighting for his life in hospital, Ms Chapman was taking the stage at a state-sponsored rally for the Young Guard in a dress that left little to the imagination.
Her remarks, which received a rock-star reception, were as phoney as her red hair. Her breathtakingly vapid thoughts were worthy of a beauty contest. â€˜I would like us to learn to be more positive ... there would be less negativity in society if we all had a smile on our face ... We must transform the future, starting with ourselves.â€™
â€˜If each of us were gladdened by the new day, then we could do something new and useful,â€™ she said. â€˜Be Happy!â€™
The comments are an insult to real patriots â€” people like Oleg Kashin who yearn for their country to regain its place in the civilised world, free of corruption and misrule and rid of the ex-KGB gang that rules in Moscow. The adulation gained by Ms Chapman and her sleazy, well-connected friends stands in bitter contrast to the ostracism and brutality that campaigners for truth and justice receive.
Let us be in no doubt. The Russia of Anna Chapman is a threat to us â€” as the skilful work of spy-catchers in Britain and America reveals. But it is an even bigger threat to her own compatriots â€” the patient and long-suffering people of Russia â€” abused and misruled by crooks, spooks and cronies.
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/artic ... z1AivXjd9Y
"The object of life is not to be on the side of the majority but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane." Marcus Aurelius, Roman Emperor and stoic philosopher, 121-180 A.D.