Examining the Different Fates of Russia’s Redheaded “Spies”

After a brief celebrity, the spies face jail time or disappear into obscurity.

Mariia Butina, whose name is sometimes spelled Maria, was arrested in Washington on July 15, 2018 and appeared in court on July 16, the Justice Department said. (STR/AFP/Getty Images)
AFP/Getty Images

Three Russian women who tried to make careers in the West all fit a certain description and have been accused as agents working on behalf of Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin.

According to The Daily Beast, there is a preferred “Russian spy look” for women: long red hair, either natural or dyed, pale skin, high cheekbones and “perhaps a certain something in the eyes.”

Anna Chapman and Maria Butina in the United State and Jelena Knorr in Germany all made tabloid headlines when they were caught. But after their moment of fame, the women were essentially cast out on their own. The Daily Beast writes writes that a public campaign in support of the three red-headed women calls them Putin’s Trio: “They were accused of espionage for the color of their hair, for their gender and nationality,” a video supporting them says. “Butina’s Russian roots are the fundamental part of her espionage accusations.” That line is from the Kremlin’s playbook. Putin has compared American Russophobia to anti-Semitism.

But the Kremlin also understands that America is fascinated with Russia. The Daily Beast writes that the role of “espionage superstars” is reserved for women alone, and oftentimes is focused on blatant objectification and not intelligence triumphs.

The InsideHook Newsletter.

News, advice and insights for the most interesting person in the room.