Lionised on TV, spy girl Anna reveals cub ambition

She likes spy movies and actress Angelina Jolie. She might be considering an acting career herself and really wants a pet cat. Well, a lion cub.

These were the revelations from the first major public appearance by Anna Chapman, the young redhead who achieved Hollywood-like celebrity in Russia since she and nine others accused of being agents for Moscow were deported from the United States six months ago.

Heralded by a thumping techno remix of the James Bond theme song, Ms Chapman appeared on a popular talkshow this week, speaking about life, love of country and a fondness for shooting.

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"In general, I am a very good shot," she said. "I have a passion for it."

Unlike her more obscure colleagues, Ms Chapman, 28, has welcomed the attention. She has become a darling of the tabloids, appearing in racy photo spreads, one of which recently involved her posing with a pistol.

"She is without exaggeration the woman of the year," said Andrei Malakhov, the host of talkshow Let Them Speak.

In Russia, she has been praised as a patriot who risked her safety and her future for the sake of the motherland. President Dmitri Medvedev awarded her and the nine others top state honours. Prime minister Vladimir Putin, a former KGB chief himself, met and sang patriotic songs with them shortly after their return. Last week, Ms Chapman joined the youth wing of Mr Putin's governing party.

"Loving your motherland is absolutely necessary to be happy," she said.

Still, Ms Chapman, who has kept the last name of her British former husband, spoke longingly of New York, where she was accused of passing encrypted messages to Russian officials from a bookshop. The value of her intelligence gathering and that of her colleagues has been a matter of dispute. None was charged with espionage in the US, where some lived for ten years under deep cover, compiling information that seemed easily attainable on the internet.

Pressed on the Russian talkshow about her activities in the US, Ms Chapman said: "I will never confirm whether I worked in intelligence."

Rather than tales of cloak-and-dagger intrigues, she reminisced about her childhood with her mother, sister and friends, who appeared with her. There were home movies of a young Ms Chapman reciting poetry in school and practising ballet. Her grandmother brought a large pickled herring and beetroot salad onstage as a gift.

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However, Ms Chapman seemed barely able to endure a reunion with an old boyfriend, who came onstage and described their first kiss.

As for her future? "Keep watching television," she said. "Next year I will reveal all my secrets."

More than anything, though - more even than punishment for the still unnamed traitor who sold her out - she said she wanted a pet lion cub.Perhaps she was thinking of the tiger cub Mr Putin received for his birthday two years ago. Whatever the case, her host, Mr Malakhov, summoned a handler from backstage who presented her with one.

Elated, the crowd began singing the theme song to a Soviet-era spy film, Shield and Sword.

Ms Chapman, however, kept her lips sealed.