Russian spy suspect fights deportation from Britain

18th October 2011, Comments 0 comments

A Russian woman fighting deportation from Britain over allegations that she spied for Moscow denied Tuesday that she started a sexual relationship with a lawmaker because he was "vulnerable".

Katia Zatuliveter, 26, was arrested by British authorities in December amid claims that she spied while working as an aide to MP Mike Hancock. She is appearing at a special immigration appeals tribunal in London.

Zatuliveter told the hearing she had "no idea" why Hancock, a member of the British parliament's defence committee, would have been of interest to Russian intelligence.

"I don't think that he is very influential. He is a backbench MP," the Russian said.

But Jonathan Glasson, a lawyer acting on behalf of the British interior minister, said that he was "not just a backbench MP though, is he? He's a member of the defence select committee."

Glasson also said that Zatuliveter "knew that Mr Hancock's private life might make him potentially vulnerable" given that he was reported to have had extramarital affairs.

She replied that she "did not know of his private life until our relationship."

The tribunal also heard allegations that Zatuliveter had sexual relationships with unidentified officials from European countries, including a NATO official, when she acted as a chaperone to delegates attending conferences in Russia.

The panel is later expected to hear evidence from Britain's security evidence behind closed doors.

Zatuliveter began working for Hancock in November 2006.

She was initially held in an immigration detention centre after her arrest last year and then under strict bail conditions, which were relaxed after Russia condemned her treatment as "house arrest".

She denies the allegations of spying.

The case highlighted the tense relations between Britain following the radioactive poisoning death of dissident Russian agent Alexander Litvinenko in London in 2006.

© 2011 AFP

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