Home » » UK MP's assistant, Katia Zatuliveter, a spy for Russia

UK MP's assistant, Katia Zatuliveter, a spy for Russia

Written By Rana G on Sunday, December 5, 2010 | 7:09 AM



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."

An MP today denied his Russian assistant was a spy after security services arrested her on suspicion of espionage.

Liberal Democrat Mike Hancock confirmed Katia Zatuliveter has been taken into detention and is facing deportation from the UK.

But he insisted his aide, who he described as 'bright and intelligent', had nothing to hide and declared that he backed her '100%'.

Home Secretary Theresa May has apparently approved the removal of Miss Zatuliveter after being briefed by MI5 about her alleged activities.

She is allegedly suspected of working for Russia's foreign intelligence service, the SVR. If confirmed, hers would be the first case since the Cold War of a Russian agent being removed from Parliament.

Charmed life: Katia on holiday at a Black Sea resort as a teenager, posing with students in costume

Charmed life: Katia on holiday at the Black Sea resort of Tuapse as a teenager, posing with African students from a Russian university in costume

Russian doll: Katia in costume at her school graduation: She was quizzed by MI5 when she flew back to Britain

Russian doll: Katia in costume at her school graduation: She was quizzed by an MI5 officer when she flew back to Britain

The 25-year-old held a House of Commons pass and underwent security vetting before taking up her position working for Mr Hancock.

The Portsmouth South MP has been a member of the defence select committee and is the vice chairman of the all-party group on Russia.

Miss Zatuliveter was reported to have been arrested by police and Border Agency officials last week and is understood to be being held at a secure facility awaiting deportation to Russia.

She was stopped and questioned last month at Gatwick airport after returning from a holiday in Croatia.

The MI5 officers who spoke to her appeared to know details of her love life, suggesting that she was under surveillance.

She is alleged to have had an affair with someone working at Nato, though a spokesman for the organisation said it had no knowledge of any such allegation.

Mr Hancock, 64, said: 'She is not a Russian spy. I know nothing about espionage, but she has been subjected to a deportation order. She is appealing it, because she feels - quite rightly - that she has done nothing wrong.'

He later added: 'I have no reason to believe she did any thing but act honourably during the time she was working for me.

'She is determined to fight her corner and she genuinely believes, and I back her 100 per cent, that she has nothing to hide and has done nothing wrong. If she has, the (security) services are right. But they need to prove their point now.'

 Posing: A more recent photograph of Katia, in the North Yorkshire seaside resort of Whitby

Posing: A more recent photograph of Katia, in the North Yorkshire seaside resort of Whitby

Spy story: Andrei, Katia's father, is a former Communist

Spy story: Andrei, Katia's father, is a former Communist

In recent weeks a number of questions relating to defence, including an inventory of Britain's nuclear weapons arsenal and the location of all submarine bases worldwide have been issued to Government departments from Mr Hancock's office, according to the Sunday Times.

Ministers declined to answer some of the questions.

Mr Hancock said that the security services had never raised concerns with him about the possibility that Miss Zatuliveter might be working for Russia.

He revealed she had complained to him about being given ‘a hard time’ whenever she came back to Britain and dismissed suggestions that she was close to Russian intelligence as ‘absolute rubbish’.

Liberal Democrat Mike Hancock: 'She is not a Russian spy. She has done nothing wrong'

Liberal Democrat Mike Hancock: 'She is not a Russian spy. She has done nothing wrong'

'No-one has ever said to me under any circumstances whatsoever that she has been involved in anything like that,' he said.

‘She was already in this country so she didn’t need a visa. She was educated here – she did a Masters – and that gave her the right to work for a period and then it was renewed. The whole thing has been blown out of all proportion – it’s not my problem.’

'It is now in the hands of her lawyers. I am sure that in the end she will be proved to be right.'

A source told the Sunday Times: 'Her presence here is not considered conducive to national security. There was unhappiness about what she could have access to. The intention is to show her the door.'

Last week, it was reported that Mr Hancock’s colleagues in the Strasbourg-based Council of Europe had been so concerned about his allegedly pro-Russian views and voting record that they expressed their concern to the then Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy.

The MP is currently on police bail after being arrested over an alleged indecent assault on a female constituent earlier this year. He denies any wrongdoing.

Enquiries by the Mail On Sunday have revealed that her father Andrei has run several successful enterprises, including a gas-trading company, in the tinderbox Caucasus region of southern Russia.

He also appears to have connections with some of the most influential elements in Russian society.

A source said: ‘He was powerful and had close links to the authorities. Only people who were extremely well connected, as Zatuliveter was, were able to make money so quickly when the Soviet Union fell apart, especially if they were living in the provinces.’

Another source said Mr Zatuliveter served in the Red Army and used to work as a spy for the Soviet KGB, although it has not been possible to confirm this claim.

Her father flew into a rage when a Mail on Sunday reporter tried to speak to him last week at the fam­ily’s modern house in Zmeika, on the edge of the Caucasus.

Questions about the location of all submarine bases worldwide were issued to government departments from Mr Hancock's office

Questions about the location of all submarine bases worldwide were issued to government departments from Mr Hancock's office

When asked if there was any comparison between his daughter and Anna Chapman, the glamorous spy who spent years in Britain as a ‘sleeper’ agent, he shouted, ‘Get out. I’ll kill you, b******’ before chasing the journalist through the village, first on foot and then in his car.

Later, when contacted by phone, he said: ‘I don’t believe in any of this rubbish.’ Neighbours said Katia was an example of the charmed generation of children of the new Russian elite who made money at dazzling speed after Communism’s collapse.

Her elder sister Polina was sent to a fee-paying school in England and is married to British businessman Andrew Cowburn, 43, a director of Choices (Northern UK), which he set up six months ago.

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

It was not immediately possible to contact Ms Zatuliveter or her lawyers.

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