A couple of days ago I reported that a Russian British MP’s aide is allegedly under investigation by MI5.
The story about Katia Zatuliveter, initially broken by the Times, has now been picked up slightly more widely, and more details are emerging.
The Guardian newspaper are now reporting that Mike Hancock, the MP she works for, is not only Chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Russia, but is seen as being so pro-Russia that he’s almost in the Kremlin’s pocket. In their own words, he’s been so pro-Russian that questions have been raised “about the extent to which he has in effect acted as a lobbyist for the Kremlin”.
Mágyás Eörsi, former Chairman of the EU Parliament’s liberal grouping, reportedly told the Guardian:
“I wasn’t surprised by this story at all. I don’t say that Michael is a spy. But I’m very sure that the Russians use Michael quite deliberately. He is the most pro-Russian MP from among all of the countries of western Europe. You just have to read his speeches.
“When it came to debates on Putin, freedom of the media or the war with Georgia, Michael always defended Russia. Among the liberal bloc in Strasbourg we were all stunned by his position. According to him, Russia really is a fully fledged democracy.”
Hancock responded, telling the Guardian that, although he is pro-Russian, he’s definitely not their puppet:
He said he had criticised Russia over its wars in Chechnya, but had strongly backed the Kremlin during its conflict with Georgia because of his visceral dislike for Georgia’s president, Mikheil Saakashvili. “I was keen that Russia wasn’t going to be fingered by Saakashvili. I’m very anti-Saakashvili,” he said.
He went on: “My view of the Council of Europe is that I’m not there to be led by the nose any more than I was led by the nose here.” Hancock claimed his voting record showed him to be less pro-Russian than many Tory members of the assembly. “The Tories vote en bloc with the Russians,” he declared.
Hancock also went on to defend Zatuliveter, his aide, telling journalists that allegations against her were “absolute rubbish”.
Like Hancock, I’m still inclined to believe that this is a bit of a storm in a teacup. But, when you consider that Hancock is a member of the coalition Government ruling the UK at the moment, and that his Zatuliveter is an attractive young Russian (see her picture, revealed today and posted above), and I don’t see this story going away all that quickly.