Pando

The Life and Murder of Anna Loginova: Part Two

By Mark Ames , written on September 14, 2015

From The Murder Desk

Previously: Part One

In an interview with the Russian edition of Glamour magazine shortly before her murder, Anna explained how she got started: 

“I was called up for a photo shoot to promote a new film, ‘Mavr,’ which was just starting to film in Russia. At the press conference, I was supposed to look like a female assassin, with a samurai sword. It was at the photo shoot that the producers learned about my special skills, so they invited me to become the personal bodyguard to Kostya Tszyu whenever he’s in Russia. “ The first time Kostya looked at me, he was dumbstruck. His first question to me was, ‘Let me take a look at your fists.’ At first glance my hands are tiny, but they’re also hardened and broken — I broke a bone in [a] fight. Konstantin immediately recognized this. So from then on, whenever someone asked him why he had a female bodyguard, he’d answer, ‘I took one look at Anna’s fists, and I that’s all I needed to know.’ Now I have a huge responsibility hanging over my head. Konstantin doesn’t come to Russia very often, but starting from his next visit, I’ll be by his side 24/7.” 

The Glamour writer bought the story completely. As she told me, “Anna was so sincere, so convincing when she told us the story of her and Kostya Tszyu, there was nothing in her eyes or her expression that suggested otherwise.” As Anna pursued the reality of model-bodyguarding, she quietly dropped the hokey story she and the boxer came up with during the promo shoot. 

She no longer needed a story, because she was actually doing it. Within a year or so, she’d taken enough courses on shooting, jujitsu, protection and self-defense — she even got a license to carry a pistol, which she did wherever she went — to make her bodyguard alter-ego increasingly authentic. She herself began to believe it, and live it. Guns and self-defense and fast driving had become her guilty pleasures in life. It began a couple of years before her death, when she was hired to become the “face of BMW” for a big marketing campaign targeting Russia’s rich. One of the perks of that job was an offer from BMW to take a one month “extreme driving” training course, as a thank-you gift. By the end of her course, she was smitten with cars. 

As soon as Anna earned enough money to buy her very first car, those who rode with her described the experience as “harrowing.” “She’d demonstrate to me what she’d learned at the BMW course,” Anna’s modeling agency director told me. “For example, she’d be speeding down the road and tailgate just a foot or two off the rear of the car in front of her, because the escort bodyguard can never let anyone between her and her client’s car.” Anna’s mother agreed: “Muscovites are rude and aggressive drivers — Anna didn’t stand for it. She was fearless on the road. She was always a fearless girl.” 

By 2007, Anna Loginova was claiming to run a model bodyguard agency named “Stilet,” meaning “dagger.” The PR the agency received was tremendous; but was it all smoke and mirrors? According to Litavrin, the big flaw in her story was that it made as much sense to hire a gorgeous neophyte bodyguard as it would to hire a model heart surgeon who’d just taken up the hobby a year earlier. Real professional bodyguards require years of training, physical and otherwise, as well as field experience, in order to be effective enough to operate in an environment as demanding and dangerous as Moscow — attributes that the petite model lacked. “I know of only two or three women in all my years in the business,” Litavrin told me. “And they’re far from looking like models, if you know what I mean.” 

I called the offices of Stilet. A deep-voice snarled into the phone at the mention of Anna Loginova’s name. 

“We never had a thing to do with her,” he hissed.“ 

You mean Anna Loginova wasn’t the head of your agency before she died?” I asked. 

“No.”

“Did she work for you? Because what I read in the press —” 

“Maybe you didn’t hear what I said,” the voice snarled. 

“This woman had absolutely no connection with our agency.” 

“Okay, but can I ask, did your agency ever have any female bodyguards there?” 

“Nyet!” 

And with that, he hung up. When I told Litavrin of Gray Shadows about that phone call to Anna Loginova’s purported company, he smiled knowingly, sighed, and explained: “This idea of modelbodyguards in Russia is just a myth. People would like to believe that the bodyguard life is glamorous — I’d like to believe that myself — but unfortunately it’s the very opposite of that. It’s about staying in the background, being discreet, watching, waiting, sitting, analyzing — to make sure that your client avoids any conflict situations before they even arise.

The real work is anything but a Hollywood film, and although there are a few movie moments, they’re rare these days. This isn’t the 1990s anymore. So if by chance some oligarch asks for a beautiful female bodyguard, it’s just for show, just vanity, not about protection.” 

He pointed out that whereas Loginova dressed to kill and PR’d her business in public, a real bodyguard’s basic modus operandi is the exact opposite — dress unassumingly, behave unassumingly, appear as zen-calm as possible, merely hinting at what’s beneath. Anna, at just 5’6” and 106 pounds, was considered barely big enough to be a model, let alone a bodyguard. To make his point, Litavrin pointed to the young darkhaired guy in a plain business suit sitting at the table next to me, whose name he’d only give as Vasily since he still works as a bodyguard. 

Vasily trained in the Interior Ministry’s elite special forces, fought in the First Chechen War in the mid-1990s, then eventually took his karate and weapons skills (he’s an expert in everything from pistols and sniper rifles to grenade launchers) into the private sector to earn a better living. “The average professional bodyguard needs about seven or eight years of studying and training before he’s considered ready,” he said. Anna was about as fit to be a professional Russian bodyguard as she was to play middle linebacker for the Baltimore Ravens. 

As the myth of Anna Loginova began to unravel, what began to emerge in its place was something far more interesting and impressive: a remarkably shrewd, adaptive entrepreneurial instinct. Anna was already 26, retirement age for most models, when she finally started getting her first success. She was fully aware that she’d come to modeling too late in life. The future must have looked frightening: How could she make the most of her looks in the few years that she still had left? Rather than go back to the brutal, hopeless search for a husband, she staked out as-yet unclaimed territory — and made herself queen of the mythological model-bodyguards, the Scythian Amazon in a jumpsuit — a move that, in hindsight, seems so obvious, it’s hard to understand why no one tried it before her. A lot of people were still convinced she was the real deal. 

Lera, one of the editorial producers who worked on Loginova’s Glamour magazine feature, told me, “Anna was very serious about her bodyguard career, and I don’t think she was making it up. Unlike most people from that world, she was completely unpretentious, with a very quiet voice and polite manners. She didn’t seem like a typical boasting liar, she was very sincere. Nothing at all like a typical model, most of whom are dumb and shallow. There’s a saying here: a ‘model’ is another word for ‘whore,’ and it’s usually true. But not in Anna’s case — definitely not.” 

What struck Lera was how tense Anna was during the photo shoot, a cold stiffness that contrasted with how warm and genuine she came across off-camera. The photo shoot took place in a high-priced mansion outside of Moscow, where the oligarchs keep their dachas. “Unlike most models, Anna couldn’t fake or express the usual emotions like smiling and carefree joy. She couldn’t relax for the photo shoot — her mouth was tight and tensed up. It was one reason why I liked her so much — she couldn’t fake it. She was genuine. We decided to work around her ice-cold expression by dressing her up in an Asian theme — kimono, hairpins, black bangs — and it came out great.” Lera herself had worked in modeling for several years before moving over to Glamour, at the time Conde Nast’s biggest selling title in Russia (if not continental Europe). 

Lera was glad to get out of modeling and into fashion journalism: “There’s a saying: a girl from the provinces has two choices in life, model or panel,” using the word for the bleak slab “paneli” apartment blocks where most provincial Russians live out their lives. Lera was surprised how uncomfortable Anna appeared to be out at the dacha-mansion, especially since Anna repeatedly remarked that it belonged to her “husband,” who she lived with. “Anna constantly talked about a husband of hers that day. Everything was ‘my husband this’ or ‘my husband that,’ which I believed at the time, although I thought it was odd how often she mentioned him. It was as if she was trying to convince us — or maybe convince herself. But looking back, I realize that the mansion had no woman’s touch to it, nothing of Anna’s influence anywhere, and she moved around the mansion like a mouse, as if afraid of breaking something. I saw photos of him in the mansion — he looked like a typical banker type, you know — buzzed hair, no remarkable features, one of those types. They all look the same, bankers with dachas. I asked Anna, ‘What does he do?’ She answered vaguely, ‘An industrialist.’ It was a strange description.” 

One person who knew a great deal about Anna Loginova’s career rise was the director of Point Management, Moscow’s premiere modeling agency where Anna had worked until she was killed. She explained: “Anna wanted a husband, a father to her child. She had a son, as you know. Anna wasn’t the clubbing type like most models. She was more serious. But unfortunately…” the agency director took two long drags off her cigarette — “Anna didn’t have much luck with men… When she was seeing a man she was interested in, Anna would have a different understanding of their relationship than the man did — she saw in them a potential husband, and a father to her boy. Whereas the men who dated her saw in her… let’s say, something different.” 

Anna Loginova was recruited by Point Management six years earlier, in 2002. At that time, Russia’s domestic modeling market was changing, gearing more towards brand advertising, meaning that slightly older models were becoming increasingly in demand. “About 90 percent of the girls who work for me come from the provinces — that’s where the real beauties are. When I first tried recruiting Anna, she declined my offer because she had a baby to take care of. But then she understood that there was no opportunity available in Vladimir for a woman, a single mother. What was she going to do there, really? We brought her out to Moscow and put her up in one of our company apartments to live with five other models. It must have been difficult for Anna, since most models are teenagers, 15 or 16, the types who liked to go clubbing all night.” It was not hard to picture: a 15-story Soviet block apartment on the edge of the metro line, two to three girls to a room, competing, teenaged whining as Anna struggled to make a living, separated from her baby… 

“Anna was definitely not a clubbing type — what she really wanted was a family, a husband for her little boy. It was hard for her living apart from her son. For the first few months, she went home every weekend, and it almost destroyed her.” 

In the Glamour article, Anna looked back on her difficult early start in modeling: “Today I look back at my photos from before I moved out and I don’t even recognize myself. You can see it in my eyes: there’s such fear there, so little confidence in myself. Comparing myself to other successful models, I was afraid. And ashamed. I’d hide my cheap old cellphone so that no one would see how poor I was. “Five days a week I’d live and work in Moscow, then early Saturday morning I’d run to the Kursky train station and take the [four-hour long] bus ride to Vladimir. It didn’t take long before I completely burned out on that schedule. One day, when I came home to my mother and sat there in the kitchen, I realized I couldn’t go on living in two cities at once. I collapsed. I started crying, looking at my son, so I took him into my arms. And I decided that when he’d grow up, he wouldn’t thank me for sitting at home changing his diapers. Not if I could make a better life for him, for his grandmother, for me. If I wanted my son to be proud of his mother, I knew I’d have to make it on my own.” 

Her success came, but it wasn’t fairytale luck or her perfect model looks — it was old fashioned seriousness and hard work in an industry where those qualities are rare in young models. “What set Anna apart from most models was her incredible work ethic. She took every job offered to her. She was always punctual. She never complained and always cooperated. She wasn’t a prima donna. She knew what was at stake, and pursued it like a business. She wanted a family life; this was a means. You have to understand, this is unusual in the modeling business — most girls get attitudes quickly, they turn down work because it’s too early or too far to get to or not good enough — they fuss and complain, they agree to take a job then don’t show up. People in this business liked working with Anna. They’d call her back for more work, recommend her to others, because she was reliable and never turned an offer down because it wasn’t good enough for her. She wasn’t a snob — she was determined to earn money for her boy, that was it. I wouldn’t say that she ever became ‘hugely successful’ or some kind of top supermodel here, but she did well for herself on a regular monthly basis, and she did rise to the top tier.” 

When I suggested that to Litavrin that Anna’s bodyguard lifestyle was little more than a publicity stunt, or a business, the beefy ex-bodyguard nodded with a menacingly Zen smile. “Oksana Robski,” he said knowingly — the name of a famous Moscow celebrity. “She too claimed she owned female-bodyguard agency. It was called ‘Karat’ I believe. Look it up.”

Hearing Litavrin drop Okasna Robksi’s name was enough to give me bowel spasms. Robski was synonymous with everything vile about the Moscow elite in the High Putin Era. She was the embodiment of the special word, “pafos,” used to describe the outlandish snobbery of her filthy-rich class of Muscovites born into privileged, elite Soviet families. Robski was most famous for her book “Casual,” a semi-autobiographical novel about the lives of the ultra-elite from Rublevka, a Moscow dacha suburb dubbed “Moscow’s Beverly Hills” for its gauche turret-endowed Tony Montana mansions and astronomical real estate prices that would turn Donald Trump’s hair white. 

Robski’s other big success was a book titled “How to Marry a Millionaire,” which she co-authored with a younger woman known at the time as the “Paris Hilton of Russia”— Ksenia Sobchak, the blond, horse-faced scandal-mongering daughter of Vladimir Putin’s political mentor, Anatoly Sobchak, who was mayor of St. Petersburg back when Putin served as the deputy mayor. Ksenia Sobchak was privileged and entitled many times over—the man in the Kremlin was practically her godfather, and the country was hers for the taking. The book jacket of “How to Marry a Millionaire” (and accompanying perfume bottle, for the equivalent of 20 dollars) features the two of them side by side wearing stripper-wedding get-ups and clutching mobster machine guns: the dark-haired, full-lipped Okasna Robski, and the younger ice-blond Sobchak. 

Posing with machine guns was a particularly interesting choice, given the fact that two of Robski’s millionaire husbands were gunned down during the ‘90s, each dead spouse leaving her that much wealthier and higher up the Moscow pafos ladder. I tracked down Robski’s mobile number through my editor at the Russian edition of GQ, where I worked as a columnist for years, and managed to get through to her. It was a busy time for Oksana Robski: She was just weeks away from her well-publicized fourth marriage, this time to Russian soccer star Igor Shalimov. 

Everything was for public consumption: Robski’s website posted a pre-wedding announcement to her many adoring peasant-fans, writing to let them know that she and her future-husband had planned to fly to New York before the wedding to pick up their specially-ordered Bottega Veneta wedding rings — information that her fans relished. Personally, I had no idea what the fuck a Bottega Veneta ring was, apart from assuming that I’d never be able to afford one. 

It took several calls, and agonizing effort, to convince Robski to fit me into her busy schedule of shopping for herself, promoting what she bought herself, and making 140 million people feel like losers...

Next: Part Three

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Editor's Note: This article also appears in NSFWCORP: A Long Fucking Story, an oral history of NSFWCORP including interviews with former writers and previously out of print long-form features.