Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Alleged Russian Spy Working in UK Parliament Faces Deportation

Russian citizen Ekaterina Zatuliveter, 26, also known as Katia, was arrested in December 2010 on suspicion of using her job in the office of legislator Mike Hancock to pass information to Russian intelligence. Zatuliveter appeared in a British court earlier today (October 18) in an effort to block her deportation, telling judges that she had a four-year affair with her boss, but was not a secret agent. Although Zatuliveter has not been formally charged with a crime, British authorities want to deport her as a danger to national security. The case, expected to last nine days, is being heard by three judges and a former head of the MI5 intelligence agency.

COMMENT: Hancock, a Liberal Democrat Member of Parliament who sits on the House of Commons Defense Committee, has said Zatuliveter worked as a researcher in his office for 2½ years, but was not involved in sensitive matters. From my years at the US Department of State, where I worked counter-intelligence cases, it is one thing to have an affair with a foreign national, but it is something entirely different to hire a Russian mistress while holding a sensitive government position and expect reasonable people to believe that are no integrity conflicts or national security vulnerabilities.

Zatuliveter has said that she met Hancock in Moscow in 2006, and they began an affair that continued when she moved to Britain to study. How coincidental! She has denied an allegation by Jonathan Glasson, a lawyer for the British government, that she had targeted Hancock because he was influential in British politics.

Zatuliveter said she was first questioned by British intelligence officials in August 2010 when she was asked how she could afford her London apartment on a researcher's salary. She said she replied that Hancock helped her out financially.

It would be reasonable and prudent for the British government to suspend Hancock's security clearance, re-assign him to a less sensitive House of Commons committee (or better, banish him from the House of Commons) and deport Zatuliveter, particularly considering that Hancock has refused to "come clean." To support this statement, Hancock, 65, who is married with two children, said in his statement that it was "not appropriate for me to make any further comments at this time on any aspect of the hearing."

It is very clear that there is much, much more to know as to why an attractive Russian woman of 26 would invest five years of her life into a 65-year-old British parliamentarian possessing sensitive information, unless it was because it was her job. Marriage? Love? Having Hancock's child? Hardly. If Hancock were truly loyal to the British Crown, he would have already told British intelligence every detail he knows and asked his wife for forgiveness. In the end, he will have betrayed both his country and his wife.

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