As a follow-up to my October 19 posting, "Update: UK Lawmaker Resigns Amidst Allegations That He Was in Relationship with Russian Spy," a special immigration tribunal's ruling earlier today (November 29) in the case of Russian citizen, Ekaterina Zatuliveter, 26, decided that Zatuliveter can remain in Britain because she does not pose a threat to national security.
COMMENT: This is hardly a good day for MI5, Britain's domestic intelligence service. On the one hand, MI5 may have had a weak substantive case to prove that Zatuliveter was a spy, yet several nagging questions remain: Why would an attractive 26-year-old Russian woman engage in a long-term affair with a 60-something married lawmaker, Mike Hancock, who was on the Parliament's sensitive Defense Committee? Perhaps it was no more complicated than a Russian woman wanting to live in the West. Perhaps. Then again, MI5 may very well have simply presented a weak evidentiary case.
Still, the tribunal chaired by Judge John Mitting conceded that it was possible that the panel had been duped by an extremely convincing agent sent from Russia with little love for Britain or the West. Strangely, though, the tribunal accepted the government's assertion that Hancock was a likely target for Russian intelligence. It is also well known that Russia's intelligence efforts against the UK have been extensive and aggressive.
Zatuliveter was arrested last December on suspicion of using her job in Hancock's office to pass information to Russian intelligence. Zatuliveter admitted they had a four-year affair, but denied engaging in any espionage. Ironically, Hancock himself should have cooperated fully with British authorities, but apparently chose not to do so.
The Home Office released a statement following the tribunal's decision that officials are "disappointed" by the ruling and that they stand by the decision to seek her removal. One can only hope that the government of conservative Prime Minister David Cameron has the strength to deport Zatuliveter, rather than run the risk of having Britain's national security compromised.