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In the Spotlight: Anna Chapman

This week, red-haired Russian spy Anna Chapman posed on the cover of Maxim magazine and in a centerfold, wearing lacy underwear and carrying a pistol.

The cover promises “Agent 90-60-90 in an exclusive photoshoot for your eyes only.”

The magazine announced the scoop on Monday after pages were leaked on the Internet, although the issue is due out on Friday.

Chapman wears a black lace basque and knickers. In another photo, a raincoat hangs open, almost totally revealing her breasts. And yes, the underwear brand is Agent Provocateur.

The members of the spy ring returned to Moscow in July after an embarrassing exposure and what U.S. officials called a complete failure at discovering secret materials.

Chapman had more than the others to live down, as her ratty British ex-husband sold stories about her to British newspapers. He also provided intimate photographs, including one of Chapman topless.

It’s the first time that Chapman has given an interview since returning to Russia, unless you count a bizarre German article in Der Spiegel that described meeting her in Starbucks, where she wore sunglasses and a hat to avoid stares.

Unfortunately, the interview, leaked in blogs, is extremely bland because Chapman refused to talk about her spy past. “We had to simply talk to her as a men’s magazine talks to a beautiful woman,” Maxim wrote, incredibly patronizingly.

Chapman reveals that she likes men who see love as “the biggest and most wonderful feeling in your life,” that she has “no bad memories” of the United States and that she plans to start “interesting, creative projects.”

The interview looks like it was combed over by a PR person. Admittedly, it’s hard to do an interesting interview with someone who isn’t allowed to talk about the period before last July.

Chapman is also promoting an iPhone application where you can play poker and view pictures of her in tight leather trousers. She also has a web site in the works, www.annachapman.ru, where currently you can only see her face and a huge red star.

At the same time, she has been announced as working as a consultant at a bank with links to the space industry and appeared earlier this month to help liftoff at Baikonur.

In another rare public appearance, Chapman went to a party for the women nominated by Maxim magazine as the 100 sexiest in Russia, which will be the theme of November’s issue.

For the record, she is currently at 64.

The Maxim pistol-wielding cover seemed a logical conclusion, yet at the same time was a jaw-dropping, “am I seeing things?” moment.

It’s a bizarre strategy. On the one hand, a sober, rather secretive job, building on her previous banking experience, and on the other showbiz stunts that exploit all those “sexy spy” headlines.

So what next: reality show, career as State Duma deputy, or perhaps cosmonaut?

Maxim’s editorial director, Ilya Bezugly, revealed the details of the magazine scoop on Monday — the very same day that Kremlin announced that the spy ring members (presumably including Chapman) had been awarded top state honors.

The media expressed some outrage, though I was hoping for a bit more frothing at the mouth.

“If Anna Chapman has been decorated, it’s true, we really are messed up,” wrote Moskovsky Komsomolets, using a charming expression that literally means “through the ass.” Its cartoon showed a red star on the Kremlin throwing off its bra from its ample assets.

“Our agents probably have done first-class service. It’s a pity that we do not know what it was,” MK added dryly.

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