Lib Dem aide was Russia's best spy in 30 years, says top KGB defector

  • Spanish prostitute claims controversial MP gave her personal tour of Parliament
  • He helped young Russian wife fight to stay in UK after marriage to older man collapsed

The blonde Commons researcher facing deportation from Britain after being accused of espionage is Russia’s most effective spy in 30 years, a top KGB defector claims.

Oleg Gordievsky – a double agent for MI6 in the Seventies and Eighties – said Russian-born Ekaterina Zatuliveter ‘caused more damage than all other KGB agents put together’.

‘She was the strongest and most useful KGB agent for the last 30 years,’ he added.

Mr Gordievsky claimed that Zatuliveter, known as ‘Katia’ – an aide to controversial Liberal Democrat MP Mike Hancock – had gathered information about British naval bases.

Lib Dem MP Mike Hancock, has refused to comment on claims he had a 'flirtatious and intimate relationship' with the Russian Katia Zatuliveter, who had access to his email account while working as an aide

The KGB’s former London station chief said the 25-year-old was working undercover for Russian foreign intelligence, the SVR. Mr Gordievsky, 72, said: ‘She gathered information about British naval bases around the world.

‘She asked important military questions, passed them to the MP, who then pushed them up the chain. Once answers arrived, she read them, re-wrote them, copied, and passed the copies to KGB agents.’

Oleg Gordievsky, formerly a senior Soviet spy who defected to Britain in 1985, at Buckingham Palace in 2007 after collecting his CMG

The claims by Mr Gordievsky, who has maintained close links with the international security community since fleeing Russia to the UK 25 years ago, were made in an interview last week with Russia’s Radio Svoboda.

Mr Gordievsky was not available yesterday to explain why he was convinced that Miss Zatuliveter – known for wearing short skirts around Westminster – was a key espionage asset for Moscow, or where he elicited the information.

His claims go much further than leaks in Britain that have suggested Miss Zatuliveter was an Anna Chapman-style ‘sleeper’ agent whose presence was detrimental to the UK, but had not caused major damage. Mr Gord¬ievsky said she was recruited as an agent at St Petersburg University, where Russian president Vladimir Putin studied.

‘She prepared herself for that kind of job from the very beginning,’ he said.

Mr Gordievsky warned that Miss Zatuliveter represented a new style of threat to the West from young Russians recruited to help their secret services out of a sense of patriotism, and who now enjoy freedom to travel abroad.

He added: ‘Zatuliveter’s case is a typical example of how the active, clever, well-educated agent gathers information. She is a huge loss to Russian intelligence.’

Last night, senior British sources confirmed Miss Zatuliveter’s activities had been ‘of great concern’ to the UK’s security services.

Last night 64-year-old Mr Hancock, a married father of two, refused to comment on claims that he had a ‘flirtatious’ and ‘intimate’ relationship with his former aide.

'Effective spy': A photo apparently showing Russian researcher Ekaterina in a bar with Lib Dem MP Mike Hancock

But he has admitted that Miss Zatuliveter had access to his official email address.

A photograph that purportedly shows the MP relaxing in a bar with Miss Zatuliveter was sent to Mr Hancock by The Mail on Sunday last night, but the MP for Portsmouth South said: ‘I am not going to make any comment at all.’

Mr Hancock has also been accused of helping another blonde Russian, Ekaterina Paderina, stay in Britain after she ran into visa problems in the Nineties.

Mr Hancock was chairman of the all-party Russia Group until he was ousted by Labour’s Chris Bryant because it was felt he was too lenient towards Moscow.

In October, Mr Hancock was arrested on suspicion of indecent assault and released on bail until next month.

Loyal wife: Mike Hancock Jacqueline, returning to the Hancock's home in Portchester, Hampshire, on Monday

Mr Gordievsky’s claims raise the question of why Miss Zatuliveter was not charged with spying under the Official Secrets Act, rather than being detained with a view to deportation.

One explanation may be that Britain is keen to avoid a dip¬lomatic dispute with Russia as the two sides work to repair relations damaged by the murder of Alexander Litvinenko in London in 2006. Another could be a lack of evidence that could be used in court against the researcher.

Miss Zatuliveter, who is being held at Yarl’s Wood deportation centre in Bedfordshire, has protested her innocence and lodged an appeal.

Fresh claims appeared today in the News Of The World relating to Hancock's behaviour with foreign women.

A prostitute from Spain was given a private tour of the Houses of Parliament - and even allowed to sit in the Queen's seat in the Palace of Westminster.

Victoria Palomino, 38, was then taken to the Commons bar and shown off by Hancock, the paper claims.

She said today: 'I bet the old men in the bar would have fallen off their seats if they had known what I did for a living.'

Hancock met the £800-a-night hooker in Madrid at a 'well known pick-up bar' and invited her see him at his hotel the next morning.

Because she was unable to visit, he extended the offer to a trip to London, saying he would pay for her to study English there.

Miss Palomino claimed that he had told her he was divorced. 

At Parliament, he bought her chocolates and a House of Lords teddy bear.

He told the News of the World he thought she had been coming over for a job interview and denied any knowledge that she operated as a prostitute.

Meanwhile, the Sunday Times claimed today to have documentary evidence proving he Hancock intervened to try and prevent a young Russian woman being deported.

Ekaterina Paderina, then aged 25, married Eric Butler, then 54, within months of meeting him in Portsmouth in 1998.

Butler has admitted there were question marks over her reasons for being in the country and was interviewed by Special Branch.

The couple were divorced in 2001and she quickly remarried, but not before Hancock wrote to then immigration minister Barbara Roche on her behalf

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