Former UK spymaster to decide case of Russian woman

Katya Zatuliveter, a Russian woman accused of spying in the UK, is fighting attempts to deport her from the country in a court where one of the panel judges is a former MI5 boss.

­She denies all charges of espionage at an appeal before a special immigration commission, but the 26 year-old did admit to having an affair with her former employer, the MP Mike Hancock.

The MP himself eventually announced on Wednesday that he was stepping down from the House of Commons Defence Committee. Getting mired increasingly deeper in the spy scandal, Hancock said he started to feel his position was untenable.

The question the trial in the UK is trying to answer is whether Zatuliveter was spying for Russian intelligence services while working in the Houses of Parliament as a researcher.

Zatuliveter strongly denies espionage charges and has pleaded not guilty. However, her relationship with MP Mike Hancock remains the key issue.

It emerged that she had been having an affair with him from 2006 to 2010, shortly before her arrest on suspicion of espionage.

Although Hancock was not a prominent MP, he still had access to sensitive documents as a member of a defence select committee and a former chairman of the all-party Russia committee, from which he was ousted for excessively pro-Russian views.

The Home Office representative claimed Katya Zatuliveter was used as a ‘honey trap’, targeting Hancock for his access to sensitive documents and his vulnerability over extra-marital indiscretions.

The case is being heard by three judges, one of whom is Sir Stephen Lander, the former director-general of the MI5 security service, which might suggest a conflict of interest in the case.

Zatuliveter’s layers have already contested this point, asking how a former head of a British security service could remain impartial. This objection has already been dismissed by the High Court judge chairing the panel.

You can read Katya Zatuliveter’s own blog on RT.

Annie Machon, a former MI5 intelligence officer, told RT that politics might determine the decision on Zatuliveter's deportation.

I think any decision made on her deportation will probably be done in some sort of a political backroom deal, because, of course, there has been friction between Russia and the UK,” she said. “If the UK deems it to be something they could use to embarrass Russia, they might as well deport – whatever the facts are to this case.”