Spy accused Zatuliveter denies influence reason for affair with MP

Katia Zatuliveter Katia Zatuliveter said she had not known of Mike Hancock's previous affairs before their own relationship

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A former MP's aide accused of being a Russian spy has denied she began an affair with her employer because she saw him as politically influential.

Katia Zatuliveter, 26, denies spying and is fighting her deportation at the Special Immigration Appeals Commission.

Government lawyers say she should be deported on national security grounds.

Miss Zatuliveter told a hearing she did not think Lib Dem MP and defence select committee member Mike Hancock was very influential: "He is a backbench MP."

Jonathan Glasson, lawyer for the home secretary, replied: "He's not just a backbench MP, though, is he? He's a member of the defence select committee."

Asked why she thought Portsmouth South MP Mr Hancock would be of interest to the Russian Intelligence Service, Miss Zatuliveter replied: "I have no idea what would be of interest to the Russian Intelligence Service."

Extra-marital affairs

Mr Glasson told the hearing in London that Mr Hancock was known to have had extra-marital affairs and accused Miss Zatuliveter of beginning a relationship with the MP because his private life made him "potentially vulnerable".

However, Miss Zatuliveter said she had not known of Mr Hancock's previous affairs before their own four-year relationship.

The hearing was told that Miss Zatuliveter had a number of mostly sexual relationships with officials from European countries when she acted as a chaperone to delegates at conferences in Russia.

They included a man in his thirties when she was 18 and a Nato official. Mr Glasson told the hearing one of the men thought she was a prostitute and tried to pay her after sex.

Miss Zatuliveter said she had worked at conferences while studying at St Petersburg University so she could practise her language skills and learn "what is going on in the world and what people are talking about".

The hearing is expected to last nine days.

'Determined to stay'

Miss Zatuliveter was arrested in August 2010 at Gatwick airport as she was about to fly to Moscow.

She began working for Mr Hancock in November 2006 as an intern and was given a pass to the House of Commons before becoming his full-time parliamentary assistant.

Mr Hancock has backed his former employee, saying he had no reason to believe she did anything but act honourably when she worked for him.

In a statement following her release on bail, Miss Zatuliveter said: "I am not working for and have never worked for the Russian intelligence services."

She added: "I do not understand why the deportation order has been made against me but I am determined to stay in the UK to fight to clear my name."

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