Russian spy hired by oil pipeline firm: report

12th January 2011, Comments 0 comments

One of the 10 Russian spies expelled from the United States last summer has landed a top job in Moscow by becoming an aide at the national oil pipeline monopoly, a report said on Wednesday.

Natalia Pereverzeva, who lived in the United States under the name of Patricia Mills, has been hired by the secretive oil monopoly Transneft and worked as an aide to its president on foreign economic affairs since December, the Kommersant daily said, citing sources close to the company.

A spokesman for Transneft declined immediate comment when reached by AFP.

After their expulsion from the United States, Pereverzeva along with her husband Mikhail Kutzik, who went under the alias of Michael Zottoli, and other fellow spies received a heroes' welcome in Russia.

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin personally met the group, singing patriotic Soviet-era songs with the spies and promising them an "interesting, bright" future.

Soon after two of the spies -- the red-headed "femme fatale" Anna Chapman and Andrei Bezrukov who lived in the United States under the name of Donald Howard Heathfield -- landed jobs in Moscow.

The 28-year-old Chapman was hired as a representative of a little-known asset management firm called FondServiceBank and came into explosive prominence by stripping off for a men's magazine and winning a key role in a pro-Kremlin youth group.

Russia's top oil producer Rosneft tersely said it hired a man named Andrei Bezrukov as an advisor.

Kommersant business daily said Transneft hired Pereverzeva at its own initiative, citing a state official as saying that other spies may also receive posts at state companies.

"They were doing their job perfectly well, we have to be proud of them, and they fully deserve their appointments," Kommersant quoted an aide to Igor Sechin, Putin's powerful deputy in charge of energy, as saying.

Critics charge that Transneft and Rosneft are among Russia's least transparent companies.

Putin himself said last month that prosecutors should look into allegations of multibillion dollar fraud at Transneft after a minority shareholder published on his blog information alleging that officials at Transneft embezzled four billion dollars.

The company has denied the allegations.

© 2011 AFP

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