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Russian spy courts new scandal with racy photo shoot

Flame-haired and squeezed into a body-hugging cocktail dress, Russian spy Anna Champan Friday emerged from the shadows in a racy photo shoot and walked straight into a new scandal.

The glamorous Chapman, 28, was at the centre of the biggest spy crisis between the United States and Russia since the Cold War as one of the US-based “sleeper” agents who last month were exchanged in a dramatic spy swap.

Aside from some enigmatic messages on Facebook, she disappeared from sight after her return to Moscow in the swap with reports saying she was subjected to a lengthy debriefing from the Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR).

But newspaper tabloid newspaper Tvoi Den and popular website Lifenews published a half dozen pictures of Chapman it said were taken on July 25 in a photo shoot for its sister publication, Zhara magazine.

Chapman is shown in a room at a five star Moscow hotel posing by a window with a Kremlin view, leaning provocatively against the wall in a ultra-tight blue mini-dress and pensively sucking a pair of sunglasses.

The reports said publication of the photos had been put off until autumn with the participants agreed that nothing would be released until then to create the maximum impact.

It said that in line with instructions from the SVR, there was no interview to accompany the photos.

Lifenews also published a video of the photo session that showed Chapman being driven to the front door of the hotel in a black people carrier and adjusting her bra straps during the shoot.

She then leaves the hotel and climbs back into a vehicle, apparently accompanied by two plain clothes minders.

However the pictures were also published on Chapman’s Facebook page and then by tabloid Komsomolskaya Pravda. Zhara magazine said it would take her to court to ensure that its rights to the pictures were respected.

“Our lawyers have already prepared a lawsuit against Chapman over the Internet publication of photographs of her that were taken by our publisher and thus are our intellectual property,” Zhara’s chief editor Maksim Korshunov told the Interfax news agency.

The magazine plans to sue Chapman for 1 million rubles (32,000 dollars) and Komsomolskaya Pravda for 100,000 rubles (3,200 dollars), and will file a suit early next week, a spokesman for its legal department told Interfax.

Chapman, in a curt message on her Facebook page, insisted she could do what she liked with the images.

“The new pictures published today in Internet were made for my personal use and people that publish/print/sell those have no rights to them,” she said. However the pictures had been removed Friday morning.

Little is known about how Chapman has spent her time in the one-and-a-half months since she returned to Russia but she did join the other nine agents deported from the United States in a meeting with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.