Briton speaks about Russian spy suspect wife

Max Clifford, who represents Alex Chapman, said his client's ex-wife mingled with rich and powerful people

A British man who claims he was married to alleged Russian spy Anna Chapman has been speaking about their relationship.

Alex Chapman told the Daily Telegraph he met Ms Chapman at a London party in 2002 and married her five months later.

He said he was "not surprised" by the arrest and his former wife said her father had been high up in the KGB.

Ten alleged members of a Russian spy ring were arrested in the US and one in Cyprus after an FBI inquiry. Bail hearings are currently taking place.

They were charged with conspiracy to act as unlawful agents of a foreign government, a crime which carries a sentence of up to five years in prison.

Meanwhile US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has insisted the country remains committed to maintaining positive ties with Russia.

A woman identified by reporters as Anna Chapman in an image taken from her Facebook page and marked "added May 23"

Start Quote

The spy ring's femme fatale and a red-hot beauty”

End Quote New York Post

Publicist Max Clifford said Mr Chapman, who was married to Ms Chapman for four years, said his former wife had become "increasingly distant" and "increasingly secretive" as their marriage progressed.

"The relationship changed and she became more and more distant, and spent more of her time mixing with the very rich and powerful people, going to film premieres," Mr Clifford told the BBC.

He said Mr Chapman had told him his former wife's father, Russian diplomat Vasily Kushchenko, had had a "huge influence" on her.

"The inference is her father was at the heart of everything that she did, so therefore the person that, if you like, was arranging the invitations, was making the contacts, would have been directly or indirectly through her father," Mr Clifford said.

He also said Mr Chapman had spoken to his ex-wife in the United States on Friday afternoon.

Mr Clifford described Mr Chapman as "exhausted" and "confused" about the situation.

He also said Mr Chapman and his ex-wife were still "good friends" and that she had reiterated her innocence.

In the interview with the Daily Telegraph, Mr Chapman, 30, from Bournemouth, Dorset, said he had first met his ex-wife's father on the couple's honeymoon in Zimbabwe in 2002, where Mr Kushchenko was serving as a diplomat.

"I asked her what her father's job was, and Anna just said he was there to represent the Russian government in certain areas of government.

A social network image said to be of suspect Anna Chapman Ms Chapman worked in London's financial sector for several years

"He didn't trust anyone. He asked me why I had chosen a Russian bride and asked what business I had in Russia, and I said none.

"He was scary. He would never introduce me to other Russian people who came to the house and he always seemed to have a lot more security than the other diplomats," he said.

He also told the paper: "Anna told me her father had been high up in the ranks of the KGB. She said he had been an agent in 'old Russia'.

"When I saw that she had been arrested on suspicion of spying, it didn't come as much of a surprise to be honest."

Mr Chapman was questioned by MI5 on Wednesday about his relationship with her.

BBC security correspondent Gordon Corera said MI5 and the FBI were in talks and a key question was whether Ms Chapman had been active as an undercover Russian agent in the UK.

"It sounds as if after becoming married she then began to change and began to take on a secret life.

SPY RING SUSPECTS

  • Vicky Pelaez - granted bail in New York
  • Juan Lazaro (husband of Ms Pelaez) - bail hearing postponed
  • Anna Chapman, Richard and Cynthia Murphy - denied bail in New York
  • Donald Howard Heathfield, Tracey Lee Ann Foley - hearing adjourned until 16 July in Boston
  • Michael Zottoli, Patricia Mills, Mikhail Semenko - hearing due 2 July in Virginia
  • Christopher Metsos - missing after being granted bail in Cyprus

"Which does suggest she may have been active in some way or at least preparing to become active while she was in Britain.

"If she was spying here, they might be able to find out who she was working with, what secrets she might have got," he said.

Ms Chapman, 28, worked in the financial sector for a few years after moving to London in 2002.

According to the Telegraph, she moved back to Russia when her marriage ended in 2006, before moving to the US where she established an online property venture.

Ms Chapman had her bail request denied by a US court on Monday.

Prosecutors say one of her co-accused has confessed to being an agent for the Kremlin. The suspect, who called himself Juan Lazaro, has admitted that was not his real name.

Suspects Patricia Mills and Michael Zottoli Suspects Patricia Mills and Michael Zottoli admitted to being Russian

His wife, Vicky Pelaez, has been granted bail in New York after the judge said she was a US citizen and did not appear to have been trained as a spy.

On Friday court papers revealed that Michael Zottoli and Patricia Mills admitted to being Russian citizens whose real names were Mikhail Kutzik and Natalia Pereverzeva.

They and a third suspect, Mikhail Semenko, are due at a bail hearing in Virginia later on Friday.

The Foreign Office said it was looking into Ms Chapman's links to Britain.

But, amid concerns that the scandal would affect Russia's relationship with the US, Ms Clinton said the two nations were "looking towards the future".

Moscow initially reacted angrily to the claims but has subsequently said the affair will not harm relations.

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