From Russia With Love Panorama


From Russia With Love

How did an MP's former assistant come to be wrongly accused by MI5 of being a threat to British national security? Katia Zatuliveter speaks exclusively to Peter Taylor.


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Last year, MI5 believed it had uncovered a Russian spy at the very

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heart of British democracy, inside the House of Commons. If MI5 did

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not take this sort of thing seriously, we would want our money

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back. And we would be entitled to get our money back. The 26-year-old

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Russian, Katia Zatuliveter, was accused of being the eyes and ears

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of Russia's foreign Intelligence Service. Were you a honeytrap spy?

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No. I am sorry to disappoint you. In her only interview, she talks

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about being an innocent victim, targeted by MI5. Russian spies are

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very skilful. I have never met any, I don't know. And the MP who was

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her lover has hit back furiously at the Security Service. She felt like

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she was a hunted animal. And I can understand that. The court has

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upheld her case and she will not be deported. But the question that

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will now be asked is why was this case brought in the first place,

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and how, on the face of it, did MI5 On Tuesday, Katia's long battle to

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avoid deportation and clear her name ended in victory. She had

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taken her appeal to the Special Immigration Appeal Commission, SIAC.

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It deals with cases of national security and some evidence is held

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in secret. This is the first espionage case that the court has

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ruled on. What did the verdict mean to you? Everything. I would have

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been branded a spy forever. heart of the story is a tantalising

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question. Was Katia an innocent abroad, or a long-term sleeper for

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Russian intelligence? Were her relationships genuine, or was she a

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honeytrap spy? Is there honey trap just Hollywood fiction? Gosh, of

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course not. It is only fiction for governments and countries that

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played by some kind of sense of rules, whatever that may be. The

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honey trap is used extensively. fact is that a honeytrap spy

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represents a real and present threat. Gullibility must come into

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it by definition. What sensible 60- year-old man thinks that a 22-year-

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old woman has found the love of her life in him? I am not saying it

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never happens, but it is very The story begins in St Petersburg,

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where Katia studied international relations. MI5's assessment is that

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she was recruited by one of Russia's intelligence agencies when

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she was a student. St Petersburg is a well-known recruiting ground.

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There were people that everybody knew were from the KGB and the FSB

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around. They would have watched her, approached her and invite her in

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for a career chat. Vladimir Putin was recruited there. He let it be

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known that he wanted to work for the then KGB. They duly recruited

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him. When you were a student at St Petersburg University, were you

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ever approached by anybody from Russian intelligence? No. Never?

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Never. We were absolutely unaware that there was Russian intelligence

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around us. Every year, students from the University volunteer to

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help at an international conference. Katia acted as one of the

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chaperones. This was how she first met the Liberal Democrat MP Mike

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Hancock. I was working with the British delegation, which consisted

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of British MPs and Lords. What did Mike Hancock say to you? When you

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chatted to him? Lots of things. he make advances to you? Can we

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make a break? I met her at a conference in St Petersburg in 2006.

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She was bright, intelligent, spoke good English, friendly. That was it.

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It was the beginning of a four year relationship between the married MP

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and the Big Dom Russian. But Hancock was not the first Westerner

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chaperoned by Katia who would fall for her charms. Two years earlier,

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she met a Dutch diplomat at a St Petersburg conference. We had a

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couple of drinks, we had dinner at the reception. We exchanged our

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details. The next day, we went for dinner and the theatre. Did you

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sleep with him? Yes. Did you know what his job was? He was a Dutch

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diplomat, that is everything I knew. Did you ask him about his job?

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Spying, the second oldest profession in the world, still

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relies on human sources to deliver what nothing else can. People look

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at technology in the spy business. Because it is sexy, they think it

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is the centre of the universe. I don't care if it is the 15th

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century or the 21st century, if you want to understand intent, you need

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a human being. In 2006, Katia moved to the UK. Mike Hancock gave her a

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job as his parliamentary researcher. She was vetted and given a

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parliamentary pass. Now with a House of Commons pass, Katia was at

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the heart of Westminster and, potentially, close to some of its

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secrets. At Westminster, Mike Hancock was a busy MP, with a seat

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on two important parliamentary bodies, the All-Party Russia Group

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and the Defence Select Committee. What kind of documents would Mike

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Hancock have had access to? Would they be confidential? For the most

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part, it is not seeing some plan of a bomb-making installation or

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something, like on a James Bond episode. It is nothing like that at

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all. What you are trying to do is gain information, knowing who is

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sleeping with who, having access to a building where there are lots of

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other people's researchers you can get to know, where most tours are

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not locked, that would be immensely useful to another country's

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intelligence gathering operation. Did you see any confidential

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documents in the course of your work? Never. Did Mike Hancock ever

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show you will give you any confidential documents? No. I never

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hid the fact that Katia was a Russian, working for me. Why should

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I? She was very good at her job. Irrespective of personal

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relationships, she was the best person for that job. As well as

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being Mike Hancock's assistant, Katia was his live-in lover and

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shared his London flat. She had been keeping a very personal diary,

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referring to him as her darling teddy bear. She wrote, there is no

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one more tender and sincere than you. Did you love him? I think we

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have a judgment on that. It clearly states that we had a genuine

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relationship. I don't think that I need to try to respond to that. It

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has been scrutinised well enough. Mike Hancock's constituency is in

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Portsmouth, home to most of Britain's warships and headquarters

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of Britain's fleet. So, the MP for Portsmouth South is in a position

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to know a lot. MI5, the security service, has an obvious interest in

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Russians working at a house of Commons. Checks are routine, as the

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potential for a Russian sleeper spy is always there. MI5 called Katia

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to set up a meeting. A man called me, I picked up my office phone and

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he said that he was from the Ministry of Defence and he would

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like to meet me. Did you meet him? Yes. Did he say he was from the

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Ministry of Defence? No, not any more. He now said he was from MI5.

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Her visit to wanted to know if she had had any contact with people at

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the Russian embassy. Together with him, we went through all my

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business cards. He found the car of Boris. The business card that

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interested MI5 the most belonged to a man working at the Russian

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embassy in Kensington. MI5 were concerned about this individual, as

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they suspected he was one of the many spies working undercover at

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the embassy. He was referred to in court as Boris. My understanding is

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that she was picked up by MI5, not because there was any smoking gun

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evidence against her, not because she was found carrying documents,

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secret documents out of Parliament or had a memory stick about her

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person, but because she was making contact with a Russian intelligence

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officer in the Russian embassy in Kensington, in whom the MI5 were

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already taking an interest. Katia had originally met Boris from the

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embassy at a conference in London. He subsequently struck up a

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conversation with her at a nearby underground station. Do you think

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:10:21.:10:21.

I am questioning it now. I think maybe. Katia says that she told

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Mike Hancock about her encounter with Boris. She says he told her

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not to have anything to do with him. There are lots of Russians in

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London, some of them desirable and some of them very undesirable. She

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had to make their own judgments on lots of people. This was a specific

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operative working inside the Russian community in the embassy. I

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felt that would be completely inappropriate for her to meet them.

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Although the cold war ended over 20 years ago, relations between Russia

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and the UK are still characterised by mutual suspicion. MI5 says that

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the number of Russian intelligence officers in London is up to Cold

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War levels. The most dramatic recent evidence of recent Russian

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activity in London was the murder by poisoning of Alexander

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Litvinenko. Every day you could see that he became worse. Every day it

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was a fight for life. He had been an outspoken critic of the then

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In Moscow, the former Russian intelligence officer suspected of

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the killing, Andrei Lugovoi, is now a put in supporting politician,

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elected to Russia's parliament. -- Following the killing, he believes

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that Katia is simply a pawn in the wider game between British and

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:12:30.:12:56.

The idea that, at the end of the day, the Russia we are living with

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his in many ways not that different from the old Soviet Union, and all

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the problems we had with that old Soviet Union, is very, very

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chilling. Frankly, if MI5 did not take this sort of thing seriously,

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we would want our money back. And we would be entitled to get our

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In 2010, Mike Hancock ended his relationship with Katia. And Katia

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moved out of his flat. She then met her next lover. A high ranking

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German NATO official whom she met at another London conference. He

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was in his fifties. Did you know what he did? Yes.

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you talk about his work with NATO? No. Did you sleep with him? Yes.

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Were you a honeytrap spy? No. I'm sorry to disappoint you. It would

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have been a much better story if I In the summer of 2010, alarm bells

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from across the Atlantic rang in MI5 Headquarters. The FBI had

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uncovered a sleeper cell of ten Russians who'd been living all

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American lives unsuspected in the United States. The most prominent

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Russian recruit to the cell was Anna Chapman who'd once been

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married to a British citizen. On her return to Moscow, Chapman was

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greeted as a Russian hero, cashing in on her new found fame with a

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series of photo shoots. She even went on to host her own TV show.

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All I'm going to say is say is I'm interested in helping other people,

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that's all. That was a very disturbing case because it was

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clear the Russians were putting a great deal of money into developing

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long term sleeper penetration agents at a young age. They could

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be expected, one way or another, to grow into the fabric of American

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political culture. But Katia was never an illegal. She

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was living quite openly under her own name and was known to the

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intelligence services. She says that she cooperated with them fully.

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In August 2010, Katia was returning home from a holiday in Croatia with

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a group of female friends. It was her birthday and they had been away

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to celebrate. It was midnight. They were waiting for me there to arrive.

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They knew that I would arrive. Katia was taken away and

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interviewed by two MI5 officers. They showed me a picture of my then

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boyfriend, which made me laugh because I couldn't understand why

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would they be interested in my relationships. Katia's boyfriend at

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the time was the senior German official who worked for NATO.

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What was the tone of the interviews? It started neutral but

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very quickly it went into aggressive. I mean, sitting in the

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middle of the night. You don't know where exactly where you were

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brought by the car. There were people screaming at you. You have

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no idea what's going on. How were you feeling? I can't even describe.

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Katia says that the screaming was done by a man. Whereas, in

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subsequent interviews conducted in a series of up market London hotels,

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a woman adopted a very different approach. She tried to be friendly,

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talking about herself a lot. Her son, for example. The books she

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read. Did you realise what she was trying to do, the way she was

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operating? Yes, but I didn't mind that. I'd rather have that than

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somebody screaming at me that I'm a liar.

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MI5's interviews with with Katia continued over a period of months

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towards the end of 2010. scariest part of this interrogation

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was that I've seen that these people were unprofessional and

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paranoid. Everything they've seen in Russian people was a spy. If you

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are Russian in this country you are a spy. They could not understand

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how a Russian in London can speak English language. That was one of

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the questions they were querying. They believe that if you are

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Russian the only way you can learn English language is in some kind of

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spy school. Katia's former lover was also

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invited to meetings with MI5. I invited them to come to the House

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of Commons. I said, well, I'll come to Thames House, meet you at your

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headquarters. They didn't want to do that. They said, "Oh, we'd

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rather meet you in a hotel." So had this rather bizarre arrangement

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where I go to a hotel, I find them in a room. And then I go into the

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room and they lock the door. I didn't like some of the questions

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they asked, because they were of a personal nature. But I had nothing

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to hide, so I answered them all truthfully. What I found strange

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was each time I tried to probe what is this about, what is the

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allegation, they wouldn't say. They didn't say and I think it was

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because they didn't know what to say. And I think that was rather

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Katia discovered she would be asked to meet at one hotel and then be

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asked to go to another slightly less grand. The Savoy became the

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Strand Palace. Although Katia wasn't to know it, this was to be

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her final interview with the Security Service. It appears that

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by this stage, MI5's investigation I had a knock on my door, seven in

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the morning. I opened my door. There were five people standing

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outside my door with a light in my face. They came in. They asked for

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my passport. They didn't even look at it. They put it in their pocket

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and said that I have to dress and pack up and we're leaving. And I

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will be leaving this country shortly.

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At the beginning of December last year, Katia was served with

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deportation papers on the grounds that her presence in the United

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:19:21.:19:24.

Kingdom was considered a threat to national security. A Russian woman

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working for a Liberal Democrat MP is arrested for espionage. MI5 it

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raise concerns about the 25 or graduate who now faces deportation.

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Katia was determined to fight her case and decided to appeal. She had

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to do so through the Special Immigration Court. On the face of

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things, MI5's case looked circumstancially strong. MI5

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thought you were a spy. They didn't make it up. I can't imagine anybody

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would believe, based on their case, that I was a spy. I think they

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probably believed it, given the knowledge of how the Russian

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intelligence services work. You seemed to be the perfect case, the

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perfect profile, given your relationship with a series of

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powerful political and security and diplomatic figures, including an MP.

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I don't know what they know about Russian intelligence. I don't know

:20:18.:20:25.

much about Russian intelligence. I have learned quite a lot in this

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process but my knowledge is very limited. Nick Fielding was an

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expert witness and part of in Katia's defence team. Isn't it

:20:37.:20:40.

perhaps more than coincidence that she chose as her lovers a Dutch

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diplomat, a NATO official and a British MP? That is not the extent

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of her relationships, according to the evidence presented to court.

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And there were other people who were not involved in these areas of

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work and who had very mundane occupations and don't fit that

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pattern at all. But she still had sexual relationships with... A

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Dutch diplomat, a NATO official and a British MP. That's absolutely

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true. On the other hand, she was somebody who was a student of

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foreign relations. That was her degree and her postgraduate degree,

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and she was mixing in precisely those circles. Katia and her legal

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team took a momentous decision in a desperate bid to convince the three

:21:23.:21:27.

judges. One of whom was a former Director General of MI5. This

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involved revealing the contents of her highly personal diaries.

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When you decided to appeal against your deportation, did you realise

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that it would entail revealing much of the intimate details of your

:21:40.:21:50.
:21:50.:21:51.

private life in public? Yes. you were prepared to do that?

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to weigh... The two options I had. One is that I will be forever

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branded a spy but will be able to keep my private life private. Or I

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had to give all of this out into press and into the public, but be

:22:11.:22:15.

able to prove that I'm not a spy. And for me, more important was to

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prove that I'm not a spy. The only way we could try to win this case

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was by really giving the court an avalanche of evidence about Katia's

:22:25.:22:33.

life. About her relationships, about what she's done over the past

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ten years. To show and to try to prove a negative, which is that she

:22:41.:22:51.
:22:51.:22:52.

is not and never was a Russian spy. I was crying in my lawyer's office.

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I was absolutely prepared to be humiliated by the press, by

:22:54.:23:04.
:23:04.:23:06.

everybody around me, yes. appeals hearing lasted for nine

:23:06.:23:09.

days. Having decided to reveal her personal thoughts in her diaries,

:23:09.:23:13.

Katia was taken aback when their authenticity was questioned.

:23:13.:23:17.

But if you had been a spy, it's reasonable to think that you would

:23:17.:23:20.

have written the diary as part of your cover. It would be incredible.

:23:20.:23:23.

It would be very skilful. But spies, Russian spies are very skilful.

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I've never met any. I don't know. Katia's diaries became crucial

:23:28.:23:33.

evidence. When the judge declared them to be genuine, MI5's case

:23:33.:23:40.

started to unravel. In closing arguments, Katia's lawyers said the

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MI5 investigation was more akin to Inspector Clouseau than George

:23:43.:23:53.
:23:53.:23:54.

Smiley. The senior case officer in this case had only been with the

:23:54.:23:56.

counter intelligence department since the spring of 2010. She

:23:56.:24:00.

didn't speak Russian. She wasn't sure how many people in her team

:24:00.:24:05.

even spoke Russian. She had received effectively on-the-job

:24:05.:24:13.

training in counter intelligence. All these things point to somebody

:24:13.:24:16.

who doesn't have a huge background and a great deal of knowledge about

:24:16.:24:21.

the way in which the Russian intelligence services operate. I

:24:21.:24:26.

think that is a little bit disturbing to me. How do you regard

:24:26.:24:29.

the way in which MI5 have handled your case, and brought your case?

:24:30.:24:37.

Extremely unprofessional. I was absolutely shocked. I can

:24:37.:24:39.

understand that they would have suspicion about me as a Russian

:24:39.:24:42.

working in Parliament. About my relationships as well. But

:24:42.:24:49.

suspicions is not everything. You have to find evidence. Security

:24:49.:24:53.

Services case was found to be wanting at every stage. The last

:24:53.:24:58.

year has been a Kafkaesque nightmare.

:24:58.:25:00.

Although the court vindicated Katia, the judgement was criticised her

:25:00.:25:04.

character. It described her as immature, calculating, emotional

:25:04.:25:09.

and self centred. But her supporters have hit back.

:25:09.:25:12.

absolutely delighted but disgusted about the time it's taken. And the

:25:13.:25:18.

way in which the security services have acted. As well as the way in

:25:18.:25:21.

which senior politicians within the Home Office have acted on this

:25:21.:25:26.

issue. They had a pig-headed adherence to their belief, and

:25:26.:25:35.

reasonable suspicion isn't enough. And once that reasonable suspicion

:25:35.:25:38.

is met with evidence, which suggests very strongly that she is

:25:38.:25:41.

not and never was a Russian spy, they should have reconsidered their

:25:41.:25:48.

case. The more that MI5 is demoralised, the more it's laughed

:25:48.:25:52.

at. The more it's seen as unnecessary in today's world, the

:25:52.:25:55.

greater the chance for those who would do us harm or simply want to

:25:56.:26:05.
:26:06.:26:09.

know sensitive things about us, to Although there will be

:26:09.:26:12.

disappointment at the Home Office that it has lost a high profile

:26:12.:26:20.

case, the mood at MI5 Headquarters is likely to be more sanguine. They

:26:20.:26:24.

feared that Katia was a long term Russian spy. And though they

:26:24.:26:27.

couldn't prove it, she has now been burned and rendered inoperative. To

:26:27.:26:33.

MI5, despite the inevitable embarrassment, it's job done.

:26:33.:26:40.

was an extremely unfair process. I think if I can describe it in war

:26:40.:26:44.

terms, it would be me on a horse with a sword against tanks and

:26:44.:26:47.

aircrafts. So not for a second actually I thought that there was a

:26:47.:26:51.

possibility that I could win. Spying is a world of assessments

:26:51.:26:58.

and suspicions. The court accepted it may have been hoodwinked by a

:26:58.:27:04.

rigorously trained spy, but thought it unlikely. Katia knows the answer.

:27:04.:27:09.

Part Whitehall farce, part Cold War throwback, this is the inside story of the Russian "honey trap" spy who never was. How did an MP's former assistant come to be wrongly accused by MI5 of being a threat to British national security? In an exclusive interview, Katia Zatuliveter tells Panorama's Peter Taylor how she became the centre of a diplomatic row over her relationship with a Liberal Democrat MP.

The 26 year-old Russian graduate reacts to being cleared of the charge - made by government lawyers - that she exploited her position as Mike Hancock's assistant and mistress to pass information to Moscow.

The film also interviews Mr Hancock, who sat on the Commons Defence Select Committee and chaired its all-party Russia Group, and speaks to former Russian and British intelligence officers who warn of new security tensions with Moscow.


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