Friday 18 August 2017

My charms disabled half of NATO, joked researcher in spy case

John Bingham in London

A RUSSIAN parliamentary researcher accused of spying joked that she had been able to "disable half of NATO" by luring an official with her charms, a tribunal heard.

Ekaterina Zatuliveter (26), has admitted having sexual relationships with powerful men, including a four-year affair with Mike Hancock, a Liberal Democrat MP, a man she described as a "dishy Dutch diplomat".

She is fighting deportation to Russia amid allegations, which she denies, that she was part of a "honey-trap".

A senior MI5 official told an immigration tribunal yesterday that Russia regularly used sexual techniques to gather intelligence on the West. He told the hearing in central London that the threat from Russian espionage in Britain was now as great as it was in the days of the Soviet Union.

The hearing was told that suspicion fell on Miss Zatuliveter because of striking similarities with the case of Anna Chapman, the glamorous Russian spy unmasked by the FBI in America last year.

Miss Zatuliveter, a former international relations student, first met Mr Hancock, who is almost 40 years her senior, in Moscow in 2006. They began an affair and, when she moved to Britain to continue her studies, she started working in his Westminster office as a researcher.

Two MI5 witnesses have told the three-man panel at the Special Immigration Appeals Tribunal that the security services believe that she was "directed" by her Russian handlers to embark on the affair with Mr Hancock, who was a member of the House of Commons defence select committee.

After splitting up with the Portsmouth South MP last year, she began an affair with a NATO official in his fifties who was named only as "Y".

The relationship developed to the point where, when they were in separate countries, they exchanged up to 100 text messages and emails a day, the tribunal was told. The pair were said to have discussed NATO matters as well as a conference attended by Madeleine Albright, the former US Secretary of State.

Distraction

In her statement to the tribunal, Miss Zatuliveter admitted that the constant communication became a distraction.

"I recall writing something like, 'I have managed to disable half of NATO by distracting Y from his work,'" she remarked. "And then I wrote that I couldn't continue writing the email because the Kremlin were calling to congratulate me on my achievements."

The extract was read during the cross-examination of a senior MI5 manager named in court only as "EA". Miss Zatuliveter's barrister, Tim Owen, told EA that the reference to shutting down NATO had been a joke.

Mr Owen repeatedly challenged EA to point to "actual evidence" of Miss Zatuliveter passing information to Russia.

EA responded that the intelligence services were "sure" of their assessment that she was a spy. The hearing continues. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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