MOSCOW (AFP) - Red-headed Russian spy Anna Chapman has made her debut as a television presenter, hosting a programme about unsolved mysteries in her latest career twist.
Her weekly show, titled "Secrets of the World with Anna Chapman," aims to unravel unexplained mysteries, although the makers have confirmed that this will not include any mention of Chapman’s spying activities.
Wearing a clingy red-and-black velvet dress in the Friday night debut, Chapman appeared stiff as she intoned cheesy catchphrases such as: "My name is Anna Chapman and I will reveal all the secrets."
The first hour-long episode on privately owned Ren TV investigated the case of a baby in the volatile Caucasus region of Dagestan who attracted hordes of pilgrims in 2009 after verses from the Koran reportedly appeared imprinted on his skin.
The child’s parents said that the Koranic verses began appearing soon after the birth of their son, Ali Yakubov, and showed red Arabic letters covering his arms, legs and cheeks.
The show took a sceptical approach to the phenomenon, hailed as a miracle by some Muslim believers. A co-presenter attempted to reproduce the results using carrot juice and Arabic scholars pointed out spelling mistakes.
In her only admission that could refer to espionage activities, Chapman commented that she had "visited Arab countries," where she had seen traditions of decorating skin with calligraphy.
Chapman posed in a headscarf to visit Moscow’s central mosque and was filmed taking off her vertiginous heels to meet the chief imam.
But in a largely studio-bound role, she did not actually go to Dagestan, a volatile region where shoot-outs between security forces and Islamist insurgents are almost daily occurrences.
"If the Caucasus gets peace and prosperity, that will be a true miracle," Chapman concluded during the programme.
Ren TV channel used Chapman’s enigmatic reputation to promote the show.
"The most mysterious woman in Russia presents the most mysterious show," gushed the channel’s documentary director, Mikhail Tukmachev.
Chapman has capitalised on her sultry looks since being extradited from the United States in a high-profile spy swap in July last year. She posed in lingerie for a men’s magazine and appeared on several television shows.
In December she appeared on a popular talk show on state-owned Channel One television, although she declined to speak about her espionage activities.
She also acted in a comedy spoof of a famous Soviet spy series that was aired on New Year’s Eve on the same channel.
Chapman’s hotly anticipated debut as a presenter was a major coup for Ren TV, a relatively minor player in Russian television known for giving air time to opposition figures not shown on state channels.
The channel until recently aired a talk show presented by another state-endorsed sex symbol, the Olympic rhythmic gymnast turned politician, Alina Kabayeva.
Kabayeva was linked romantically to Prime Minister Vladimir Putin in 2008 in a scandalous report of their forthcoming marriage that both parties denied.
Chapman has already lent her star power to pro-Kremlin youth group Molodaya Gvardiya, or Young Guard, which she joined in December. The movement is part of Russia’s ruling United Russia party, led by Putin.
Earlier last year a bank involved in the Russian space industry also announced it had hired her as a consultant after she was photographed waving off Russian cosmonauts at Baikonur cosmodrome.
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