Everything you wanted to know about the KGB but were afraid to ask

By Steve LeVine.

Boris Volodarsky was trained as an officer in the GRU Spetsnaz, the Soviet military’s intelligence arm. When I met him while on book research in London in 2007, he was writing The KGB’s Poison Factory, his own book on Moscow’s fascination with murder-by-poison. With his encyclopedic knowledge and understanding of the KGB and its history, he is finishing a new book called The Orlov KGB File. I asked whether Volodarsky would reply to a few questions about last week’s arrest of 10 Russian "illegals," sleeper agents planted without diplomatic cover, in the United States…

Anna Chapman has attracted the most public attention of all the accused. Is she a serious spy?

Everything shows that Anna Vasilievna Kuschenko started to collaborate with the SVR shortly after she finished secondary school at the age of 16 in 1998 and before she entered the university. Her father is a KGB-SVR officer, possibly from Line N (illegal support), so this would be a normal thing. After a year, she enrolled in a course at the People’s Friendship University of Moscow, which is the alma mater of many Soviet and Russian intelligence officers and agents. During her second year, in 2001, she went to London (extremely unusual) and quickly picked up a naïve young Englishman in a disco. She took him to bed on their second meeting, and by his and another account of her use of sex toys seems to have been specifically trained in the art of love. She told him how much she loved him, burst into tears when leaving for Moscow and quickly arranged an invitation, so he came and they were married in March 2002 without the usual formalities.

After getting settled in London (still being a full-time student in Moscow), she worked in several places for a short time and on small jobs, serving as a personal assistant in a hedge fund, and as a secretary in a private jet company. She dumped her husband after three years, having moved in with a young French playboy who took her to expensive private clubs in London, where she got the right contacts. He also advised her to open an Internet real estate company. In 2004, she miraculously graduated from the university (without studying there and still living in London), returned to Moscow in 2007, opened such an Internet company there, then opened a similar company in New York in February 2010, using $1 million she received from a Kremlin-backed investment fund. Almost immediately she started to send reports to her New York controller using her laptop.

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