Friday, July 2, 2010

From Russia with love

New York newspapers are on display featuring personal photos of suspected spies Anna Chapman (left) and Richard and Cynthia Murphy. -- PHOTO: AFP

LONDON - THE British ex-husband of Anna Chapman, the flame-haired businesswoman suspected of being part of a Russian spy ring, is a trainee psychiatrist who was married to her for four years, a paper reported on Friday.

Alex Chapman, 30, told the Daily Telegraph that he met his wife-to-be, then called Anna Kushchenko, at a party in London in 2001. Just 21 and 19 at the time, the pair quickly fell in love and married five months later in Moscow.

But in just a few years, the ex-husband told how Anna Chapman changed from being a carefree person who was not materialistic into an 'arrogant and obnoxious' woman who moved in influential circles. By 2006 they had divorced, but have remained in touch since.

The suspected Russian agent worked in London for several years after her marriage, but Alex Chapman said he did not believe she was working as a spy at this point. He suspects she was being 'conditioned' to take just such a path, however.

Anna Chapman is among 11 suspected 'deep-cover' suspects charged with trying to infiltrate US policymaking circles and report back to Moscow in a Cold War-style spy case that threatens to strain thawing ties between the countries. She was remanded into custody without bail at a New York court on Monday.

Enormous media attention has focused on the 28-year-old since the suspected Kremlin spies were snared several days ago, with media portraying her as a green-eyed femme fatale.

Her ex-husband said he was visited by agents of domestic intelligence service MI5 at his home in Bournemouth, southern England, on Wednesday and was questioned about his former wife. The Foreign Office has said it was looking into Anna Chapman's links to Britain. -- AFP

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