5 Dec 2010

Lib Dem MP denies his assistant is a Russian spy

Washington Correspondent

MP Mike Hancock denies his Russian assistant is a secret agent after reports she is facing deportation, as a former KGB colonel tells Channel 4 News “Britain is under attack from Russian spies”.

Mr Hancock’s 25-year-old assistant Katia Zatuliveter has been taken into detention where she is now fighting to stay in the UK.

It is believed she is being held at a secure facility awaiting deportation to Russia after her arrest by police and Border Agency officials last week.

She held a House of Commons pass and underwent security vetting before taking up her position in the Liberal Democrat MP’s office.

She is not a Russian spy. I know nothing about espionage, but she has been subjected to a deportation order. Mike Hancock MP

The Sunday Times reported that Home Secretary Theresa May had approved the removal of Katia Zatuliveter after being briefed by MI5 about her alleged activities.

The newspaper also said that she was suspected of working for Russia’s foreign intelligence service, the SVR.

Mike Hancock, MP for Portsmouth South, denies his assistant is a spy. (Getty)

If confirmed, this would be the first case since the cold war of a Russian agent being removed from the Houses of Parliament.

But Mr Hancock told the Press Association: “She is not a Russian spy. I know nothing about espionage, but she has been subjected to a deportation order.”

He added: “She is appealing it, because she feels – quite rightly – that she has done nothing wrong.”

The Portsmouth South MP said that the security services had never raised concerns with him about the possibility that Ms Zatuliveter might be working for Russia.

“No-one has ever said to me under any circumstances whatsoever that she has been involved in anything like that,” he said. “It is now in the hands of her lawyers. I am sure that in the end she will be proved to be right.”

Asked about the report, a Home Office spokesman said only: “We do not routinely comment on individual cases.

Meanwhile two Russia experts claim Katia Zatuliveter was known in diplomatic circles. The pair, who did not wish to be named, both told Channel 4 News she had “been noticed”.

Oleg Gordievsky, former KGB officer. (Reuters)
'Britain is under attack from Russian spies,' says Oleg Gordievsky
Oleg Gordievsky, a former KGB officer who defected to Britain in 1985, has told Channel 4 News that the FSB (formerly the KGB) has at least 25 officers in the UK and that it is their role to recruit British people to help them. These include MPs, members of the defence department, leaders of big corporations and specialised workers, like engineers, designing products within the defence industry.

Speaking to Channel 4 News Correspondent Siobhan Kennedy, he said they also try and get Russians living within the UK to help them and report to the security service.

"Russians are spying just as much as before only now it's easier because Russians believe that the western public is very, very easy. They like Russia, they believe that the cold war is finished so why not allow a nice young Russian girl to work in the House of Commons? But that's wrong because Russian espionage is stronger than ever before. They never believed the cold war was over."

He said Britain was "under attack" from Russian spies and that British diplomats in Russia are under 24-hour surveillance. "Their apartments and offices are full of microphones, they listen to their telephones and listen to their conversations through the walls."

"They're spying on all western countries like mad. It's just their psychology and their tradition.

"All bits of military information are of great importance to the FSB. And she would have very easy access to it and lots of other information at the MoD. They use that information to make foreign policy decisions.

He said in the past it would have been impossible for Russia to be able to infiltrate the HOC so easily. "But now the atmosphere is totally different, which is wrong."

He added that spying has become even more prevalent under Putin, given that he came from the KGB.