Moscow: A ring of Russian sleeper spies -- which included glamorous redhead Anna Chapman -- that was broken up in the US in 2010 intended to turn their children into intelligence agents, the Wall Street Journal reported.
However, according to RIA Novosti, Russian security analysts have said the spies may have simply wanted to ensure that Moscow continued to finance their children`s education.
At least one of the children agreed to join the spy operation, the American newspaper reported.
The FBI swooped down on the ring, after investigators became concerned it had infiltrated a well-connected consulting firm operating in New York and Washington.
The Wall Street Journal said Tim Foley, the son of spies who went by the names Donald Heathfield and Tracey Foley, was one of the children most extensively groomed for a future intelligence career.
Foley, who was 20 when his parents were arrested, had just finished his sophomore year at George Washington University in Washington DC.
Mobilising kids to do Russia`s bidding was a clever strategy since people raised in America would likely raise fewer suspicions and would more easily pass security checks when they began operating as spies as adults, analysts said.
Heathfield and Foley had lived with their son in the US for more than a decade. The boy ultimately agreed to his parents` request to join the family business, and to travel to Russia for espionage training, sources told the Wall Street Journal.
A lawyer who defended Donald Heathfield against espionage charges dismissed the recruitment claims as "crap".
But Russian security analysts said the reports were credible, although the goals may be misrepresented.
"I don`t think they wanted their children in the family business per se," said Andrei Soldatov, editor-in-chief and analyst at security think tank Agentura.ru.
"What they wanted is to make use of state resources to further the careers of their children in the US or elsewhere," he said.
Soldatov said it is a time-honoured practice for well-connected Russians to enlist with the intelligence services to give their children access to free English language studies abroad.
"Call it perpetuating corruption if you like, but it has nothing to do with spying," he said.