By NICK SKREKAS And RICHARD BOUDREAUX
Cypriot police said a man arrested on U.S. charges of spying for Russia had fled after being released on bail.
Christopher Robert Metsos, 54 years old, failed to report to police Wednesday as required, police said. A warrant has been issued for his arrest.
Mr. Metsos, who U.S. authorities allege was a ringleader of a group of Russian spies in the U.S., was arrested Tuesday in Cyprus as he tried to board a flight for Budapest, Hungary. Ten other people were arrested in various U.S. cities in recent days.
Cypriot authorities had released Mr. Metsos despite U.S. concerns that he might flee. Cypriot police officials said Mr. Metsos had surrendered his Canadian passport and posted bail of €20,000 and 9,000 Canadian dollars ($32,900 total). Hearings were set to begin July 29 on a U.S. request to have him extradited on charges of conspiracy to conduct espionage and of money laundering.
“Our investigation suggests he may still be in Cyprus because the only way he could leave is with a fake passport,” one official said.
Meanwhile, more details emerged Wednesday of the early life in Russia of two of the suspects arrested in the U.S., Mikhail Semenko and Anna Chapman, as commentators on Russian social-networking sites expressed skepticism about the charges.
Dozens of visitors to Mr. Semenko’s page on the Russian site odnoklassniki.ru professed their belief in his innocence and left messages of support. “Hang on in there Misha [Mikhail],” read one. “Everyone knows this is an American witch-hunt.”
On Ms. Chapman’s site, a visitor wrote that Ms. Chapman’s arrest had “a sole purpose, to undermine the credibility of Obama and help the Republicans regain their positions. It is our Russian girl who got into this meat grinder.”
One visitor to the site gave credence to the Justice Department’s charges against Ms. Chapman, writing, “A beautiful girl came to study in the People’s Friendship University from Volgograd. PFU has always been a ‘nest’ for the KGB. They quickly fooled her head, promising a wonderful life, fancy things, travelling, etc. It looked clearly better than going back to her native Volgograd.”
Ms. Chapman, a 28-year-old divorced Russian national who moved to the U.S. full-time last year, is alleged by U.S. authorities to have covertly exchanged electronic messages with a Russian government official, and to have accepted a fraudulent passport from an undercover U.S. agent posing as a Russian.
Ms. Chapman grew up in Volgograd, Russia, as Anna Kushchenko and finished high school there. She graduated in 2004 from the economic faculty of the Peoples’ Friendship University of Russia, in Moscow.
For a number of years Ms. Chapman lived in London, where she worked at Berkshire Hathaway Inc.’s private-plane firm NetJets Europe and Barclays Bank PLC.
A spokesman for NetJets Europe said Ms. Chapman worked as an executive assistant in the company’s sales department from May to July 2004. After that, she worked for about a year in the retail division of Barclays, where she was engaged in small-business banking, according to a person familiar with the matter.
In her profile on the social-networking site LinkedIn, Ms. Chapman says she spent the remainder of her time in London working at a hedge fund called Navigator, before she left the firm to work for Moscow-based KIT Fortis Investments in 2007. No one was available to comment at Navigator Asset Management in London on Wednesday, and a spokeswoman for KIT Fortis in Moscow said she couldn’t confirm if Ms. Chapman had worked there because of personal-data regulations.
In London, Ms. Chapman attended a gala charity event, known as the War and Peace Ball, in 2005, 2006 and 2007.
The organizer of the event, Count Andrei Tolstoy-Miloslavsky, who is British born and of Russian descent, recalled Ms. Chapman as glamorous and intelligent. “When I saw this stuff in the newspaper I was pretty amazed,” he added, of learning that she was suspected of being a spy.
Ms. Chapman went on to run a Russian real-estate Web site, Domdot.ru, which is how she met Dan Johnson, the founder of TheMoveChannel.com, a U.K.-based property website. Ms. Chapman emailed Mr. Johnson last August to suggest that the two Web sites collaborate on listings, and Mr. Johnson, looking to tap into the Russian market, set up a meeting.
About a month later, the two met in a bar underneath Tower Bridge when Ms. Chapman was passing through London. The bar was called Most, Russian for bridge.
“We spoke about contemporary affairs within the industry and about running a business and managing staff,” Mr. Johnson said, adding that he found Ms. Chapman professional and smart. “She knew her business,” he said, noting that she was very worldly and spoke refined English with a slight Russian accent. At one point she mentioned her husband, Mr. Johnson said, and she also said she had a beautiful two-bedroom apartment in New York.
The two agreed to collaborate on the websites, but the project has been held up in translation. “That probably won’t happen now unless she is not guilty and very quickly released,” Mr. Johnson said.
Ms. Chapman was reaching out to collaborate with other non-Russian real-estate Web sites as well. Mike Carter, the founder of the U.K. property Web site Zoomf.com, extended a welcome message to Domdot on his company blog in November 2008, noting that the two sites would be working together. In a response to the message, Ms. Chapman outlined some of her ambitions for the Domdot business, noting that the site would soon be translated into English. She said, “Domdot will slowly become a place where Russian people can look for any real estate abroad.”
Ms. Chapman seemed diligent in building her Russian business, Mr. Johnson said: “She certainly counted some senior people in fairly well-established Russian portals among her contacts.”
Mr. Semenko, who was arrested in Virginia, apparently posted extensive information about himself on at least two social networking sites: odnoklasniki.ru and LinkedIn.
U.S. authorities allege that Mr. Semenko took $5,000 cash from an undercover Federal Bureau of Investigation agent posing as a Russian government agent. Following the FBI agent’s instructions, Mr. Semenko allegedly deposited the cash beneath a bridge in an Arlington park.
The online profiles linked to his name say Mr. Semenko grew up in Blagoveshchensk, a city on the Chinese border in Russia’s Far East, finished high school there in 2000 and enrolled that year in Amur State University, located in the same city. The university confirmed that he graduated in 2005 with a degree in international relations. During that five-year period the profiles say he moved to China and studied at Harbin Institute of Technology from 2003 to 2004, earning a certificate in Chinese language and culture. The profiles say he also taught English in China.
From 2000 to 2003, the profiles say he helped organize Model United Nations conferences in several cities in Russia’s Far East.
His parents live in Blagoveshchensk but phone calls to their residence went unanswered Wednesday.
Svetlana Kosikhina, dean of the faculty of international relations at Amur State, said she helped Mr. Semenko apply to several study programs in the United States during his final year at the university. She remembered him as studious, athletic and sociable.
“He was a good student, socially active, a nice guy in all respects,” she recalled.
Mr. Semenko ended up at Seton Hall University in New Jersey; his LinkedIn page says he studied there from 2005 to 2008, earning a bachelor’s degree in international relations. He lists his primary areas of study as international security, Chinese foreign policy, China-Taiwan relations, and China’s energy policy in the Arab world.
After a year in the U.S., Ms. Kosikhina recalled, Mr. Semenko returned for a visit to Blagoveshchensk in 2006. “He was majoring in Asian studies, but he was not quite satisfied. He wanted to be engaged in politics,” she said.
During his studies at Seton Hall, he was a World Affairs Council intern in Washington for four months, helping to organize events such as panel discussions on foreign policy. After graduating in 2008, he took a job at the Conference Board, a New York-based nonprofit research group known for its measures of consumer confidence.
In 2009, he began working for Travel All Russia, a travel agency. At the time of his arrest, he was employed in the company’s Arlington, Va., office as a corporate travel specialist.
His LinkedIn profile says he established connections with business partners in China and Latin America. Russian news websites say his superior at Travel All Russia was Vyacheslav Shirakov, a friend from Russia’s Far East. A journalist in Amur, Yevgeny Kuzmin, confirms that Messrs. Semenko and Shirakov knew each other at Amur State University, where Mr. Shirakov majored in American studies and graduated two years ahead of Mr. Semenko.
According to his LinkedIn profile, Mr. Semenko speaks native Russian, fluent English, Spanish and Mandarin and has intermediate skills in German and Portuguese.
He has posted several articles on a blog called Chinese Economy Today. They cover such topics as Chinese currency manipulation, Chinese business communication, “Chinglish,” and Russian-Chinese cooperation. The latter article argues that the two countries have untapped possibilities for cross-border trade and investment.
Two others of the 11 arrested are a Cambridge, Mass., married couple who have lived in the U.S. since 1999, according to the government’s complaint.
One of them, who went by the name Donald Howard Heathfield, graduated from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government in 2000 with a master’s degree in public administration. Classmates remember Mr. Heathfield as likable and friendly, and an energetic networker who recently was promoting his consultancy firm, Future Map, aimed at working for governments and businesses.
U.S. authorities allege Mr. Heathfield and his wife sent messages to Russian officials based on conversations with American sources, and that Mr. Heathfield assumed the identity of a dead Canadian.
David Heathfield told the Associated Press on Wednesday that it was the identity of his younger brother, who died in 1963 at six weeks of age. “For somebody to be using my brother’s name for 20, 30 years-plus … it’s kind of scary,” he said.
An attorney for Donald Heathfield didn’t return a call seeking comment.
Looking back, former classmates say that a telling sign may have been Mr. Heathfield’s vagueness while describing the business activities of his firm. “I always thought he was hustling, putting a lot of energy into new clients for Future Map,” said Craig Sandler, Mr. Heathfield’s classmate at the Kennedy School, who now owns State House News Service in Boston. But “it was never really clear how Future Map did what it was supposed to do. It was excitement about concepts, not specifics. He never went into the specifics.”
Another classmate at the Kennedy School, Sam Delson, said he was struck by Mr. Heathfield’s networking. “That was a really good environment to make connections with people involved in government policy and security,” he said.
Mr. Heathfield appeared financially well off even though Future Map didn’t appear to have many clients, said Mr. Sandler.
Mr. Sandler said he assumed Mr. Heathfield was from France; he asked the alleged spy for recommendations for a trip to Paris and Mr. Heathfield “knew all the right places.”
Mr. Heathfield’s interest in politics and international business was well known among his schoolmates. An email Mr. Heathfield sent to classmates in August 2006 stated his intention of attending the inauguration celebrations of Felipe Calderon, the president of Mexico and a former classmate at the Kennedy School, according to one email recipient.
In another email to this group in November, Mr. Heathfield congratulated a classmate who had been named a minister in Indonesia, according to the recipient. In the email, Mr. Heathfield also mentions attending a dinner event with Singapore’s former prime minister, Lee Kuan Yew.
—Alkman Granitsas, Paul Sonne, Cassell Bryan-Low and Aparajita Saha-Bubna contributed to this article.
Write to Richard Boudreaux at firstname.lastname@example.org