Picture of Katia Zatuliveter
A RUSSIAN working in the House of Commons is to be deported from Britain after security services arrested her on suspicion of espionage.
Katia Zatuliveter, who works for Mike Hancock, a Liberal Democrat member of the Commons defence select committee, is to be expelled after MI5 decided the 25-year-old was secretly working for the Russian intelligence service as a "sleeper".
MI5 believes she was deliberately targeting Mr Hancock, 64, who has strong Russian interests and a reputation as a womaniser.
Her arrest is believed to be the first time since the end of the Cold War that someone working in parliament has been accused of spying for the Russians.
Ms Zatuliveter, who was vetted before taking up her post, was arrested by police and Border Agency officials last week and is being held at a secure facility awaiting deportation to Russia. It is believed she was working for the SVR, Russia's foreign intelligence service.
A source said: "Her presence here is not considered to be conducive to national security. There was unhappiness about what she could have access to. The intention is to show her the door."
Questions on defence have been issued to government departments from Mr Hancock's office in recent weeks, including requests for an inventory of Britain's nuclear weapons arsenal, details of nuclear material outside international safeguards and the locations of all submarine bases worldwide. Ministers declined to answer some of the questions.
Mr Hancock said last night that Ms Zatuliveter was not a spy and would be appealing against the deportation order. He said she had done nothing wrong and was sure she would be vindicated.
The Russian was stopped while re-entering Britain at Gatwick airport in August. Before releasing her, security officials questioned her extensively about her activities for Mr Hancock.
Sources said the MP first employed Ms Zatuliveter after meeting her in Strasbourg, where he often travels on business related to his position on the Council of Europe.
"She would walk around in very short skirts and high heels with Hancock and they would be seen having lunch together," said one Westminster source.
"Certainly, some thought she was charming and intelligent."
Mr Hancock, who also sits on the Western European Union assembly on security and defence, is vice-chairman of the parliamentary all-party group on Russia.
Other members have noted his pro-Putin stance, but the MP denies he has any undue bias towards Russia. There is no suggestion that he has been deliberately acting contrary to Britain's interests. The MP is on police bail after being arrested over an alleged indecent assault on a female constituent.
The case of Ms Zatuliveter confirms fears by MI5 that Russian spies are actively campaigning to target individuals in Whitehall and Westminster.
"There are now dozens of Russian agents in Britain, either living here or working here," said Oleg Gordievsky, a former KGB officer who defected to Britain in 1985. "They have people in parliament and in important companies. They are targeting MPs, particularly those in sensitive positions. It is scandalous that the security service would allow a Russian to work for somebody on the defence committee."