A spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin has waded into the social-media buzz around a glib proposal of marriage purporting to be from Russia's best-known ex-spy to fugitive U.S. leaker Edward Snowden.
The spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said he had no idea whether any serious offer had indeed come from suspected former Russian sleeper agent Anna Chapman, according to AFP and Interfax.
The Twitter account purporting to be of bombshell Chapman, whose ginger hair and taut figure earned her prominence and put her on magazine covers around the world, asked simply:
The same account followed up with a poke at the U.S. National Security Agency:
Reports on July 5 then suggested that, in a belated response, Snowden wrote from exile that he "would have married Chapman regardless of the rest."
It was unclear how Russian and other journalists had confirmed that the account in question really belonged to Snowden.
"The Guardian's" Russia correspondent suggested Russian media had been duped, saying it was a "fake Snowden Twitter account" and later adding that they had removed the story from their websites:
After leaking classified documents on U.S. electronic eavesdropping and the so-called PRISM program to U.S. and British media, Snowden hid out in Hong Kong before fleeing to Moscow.
An image of Edward Snowden, a former contractor at the National Security Agency (NSA), on a Chinese news website
With a revoked U.S. passport and authorities there seeking his return to face charges, Snowden has applied for asylum in at least 20 countries and reportedly remains holed up in a transit terminal of Moscow's Sheremetyevo Airport.
The Snowden case threatens to darken the pall that already hovers over U.S.-Russian relations.
Russian officials have signaled their unwillingness to return Snowden to the United States.
But Putin also publicly asserted
earlier this month that, in order to be allowed to remain in Russia, Snowden would have to "stop his work directed at hurting our American partners, as strange as it sounds coming from me."
Chapman was deported from the United States in 2010 along with nine other suspected Russian spies in a prisoner swap.
She has since been a fervent supporter of Putin and his ruling United Russia party at public appearances.
-- Andy Heil