Two weeks after 10 Russian spies flew back from the United States to Moscow, the buzz of interest around the ring's most photogenic member, the feisty redhead Anna Chapman, shows no signs of receding.
While Chapman remains in an unknown location since her arrival in Moscow, reportedly being debriefed, she has apparently found time to write enigmatic Facebook updates and negotiate with journalists on her first interview.
Chapman has dominated coverage of the spy scandal, despite her apparently minor role, thanks to salacious revelations by her British ex-husband and to seductive photographs that she posted on social networking sites.
Russian tabloids call her "Agent 90-60-90" based on her hourglass figure, while the Washington Post called her the "hot one" in a jokey opinion piece.
Chapman has not been seen in public since after arrival on July 9, when the 10 convicted "foreign agents" were whisked away from a Moscow airport in vans with smoked windows after a dramatic exchange deal.
But just hours later, followers of her page on the Facebook social networking site read an opaque message. "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times," she wrote, quoting Charles Dickens' "A Tale of Two Cities."
Chapman was an avid user of Facebook before her arrest, and her lack of security settings allowed journalists to pore over all her photographs and messages.
Her page has - surprisingly - been regularly updated ever since, with Chapman gaining dozens of new "friends," many of them journalists.
On July 14, she switched to an inspiring quote from Eleanor Roosevelt:
"You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself 'I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.'"
Many wrote messages of support. Chapman responded with a "like" approval to a message from a woman named Cordelia, who wrote on Tuesday: "I miss you here in the Big Apple."
A man named Jeffrey praised her as "beautiful and delicious," while a man named Kevin mused on her "stunning green eyes."
It is not clear whether Chapman has Internet access and is updating the page herself. Several other Facebook pages in her name have mushroomed, including a less than credible one which lists her employer as the "KGB."
So far, Chapman has not given any interviews, and her Facebook page angrily denied a report in the New York Post on Monday that Chapman was "secretly shopping" for a 250,000-dollar interview deal, citing unnamed sources.
"This is an absolute lie," a comment read.
However, the tabloid daily Komsomolskaya Pravda claimed on Wednesday that Chapman asked the newspaper to name a price for an interview and said she had been offered at least 250,000 dollars by other media.
A journalist rang Chapman offering 25,000 dollars after she called an offer of 1,000 dollars "not serious," the newspaper claimed.
"I will call you back although I have been offered ten times more for something like this," it reported Chapman as saying.
Chapman did not call back and her cell-phone number was later blocked, the newspaper said, adding that it had a recording of the conversation.
Chapman would be obliged to hand all the proceeds from an interview about her case to the US government according to the terms of the plea bargain agreed by the spy ring members.
The founder of the Russian business social network Professionali.ru Nikita Khalyavin told AFP that he contacted Chapman on the Internet to ask for an interview and that she asked for payment.
"This is the first time I've been asked to pay to give someone another chance to promote themselves," he said in an e-mail.
As the buzz around the spies refuses to die down, a newspaper in her hometown of Volgograd launched a competition to write a song about Chapman.
One entry, titled "Anya will make contact," has the chorus "Hands off our Anya, Freedom for Anya Chapman," using a shortening for Anna, Komsomolskaya Pravda reported.Reuse content