Produce evidence my aide is a spy, says MP

THE MP at the centre of the Westminster spy-scandal has demanded security services produce evidence against his assistant who is accused of passing confidential information to Russia.

Liberal Democrat MP Mike Hancock has stood by Katia Zatuliveter, insisting she had "nothing to hide" as she faced deportation for allegedly being a spy.

The revelations have rocked parliament, prompting MPs yesterday to question security after it emerged the Miss Zatuliveter had worked undetected in the House of Commons for a number of years.

The 25-year-old, who came to the UK three years ago to study a masters degree in Conflict Resolution at Bradford University, held a House of Commons pass and underwent security vetting before taking up her position as a full-time assistant two-and-a-half years ago. She worked previously for the MP as an intern.

She was arrested on Thursday morning and is currently being held at an immigration detention centre.

Mr Hancock is a member of the Defence Select Committee and represents Portsmouth South, where the Ministry of Defence has significant naval interests.

He said: "I have no reason to believe she did anything but act honourably during the time she was working for me.

"She is determined to fight her corner and she genuinely believes, and I back her 100 per cent, that she has nothing to hide and has done nothing wrong. If she has, the services are right. But they need to prove their point now.

"Nobody has shown me any evidence to support the view that she is in any way a threat to the United Kingdom.

"She has a perfect right to appeal and I am sure she is confident of winning the appeal."

Mr Hancock revealed Ms Zatuliveter, who had a tier one visa which are reserved for highly skilled workers, had been interviewed by security services in August after being stopped when returning to the UK from holiday.

If it is confirmed she is a Russian spy and she is deported, it will be the first case since the Cold War of a Russian agent being removed from the Houses of Parliament.

Her role meant she had at least three years' access to official documents on defence policy.

Mr Hancock, 64, has also asked dozens of questions about nuclear weapons and other hugely sensitive defence topics. It is understood that the responses by ministers were vetted by security services.

Among them, he asked for the locations of berths for submarines, a request to publish an inventory of the country's nuclear arsenal and when the next design review of the Trident warhead will take place.

Ms Zatuliveter is appealing against the deportation order, which came after Home Secretary Theresa May was briefed by MI5 about her alleged connection to Russia's foreign intelligence service, the SVR.

It has emerged that Ms Zatuliveter, a Russian who originates from Dagestan, was forced to flee her home as a child in the mid-1990s during the Chechnyan conflict.

MPs said there must be a security review of Parliament if the system was breached.

Shadow foreign secretary Yvette Cooper said: "There are parliamentary security checks on anyone who applies for a House of Commons pass, anybody who is going to work in the House of Commons. Of course it is important to make sure that these are strong enough and secure enough.

"Depending on what happens in this individual case, if there do turn out to be problems and breaches of security here, then obviously the wider security in Parliament would need to be looked at, and I am sure the Speaker would take that very seriously."

Foreign Secretary William Hague said: "There is nothing wrong in itself with employing foreign-born people sometimes in the House of Commons or in the work of government. Some of them do outstanding work, give great service to this country.

"But of course, we have to be vigilant for individuals where there may be something else involved.

"I think the fact that we are attending to a case like this

shows that where we have concerns we do take action and I think that is the right way of approaching it."

A spokesman for the Russian embassy said it had not been notified by the British authorities about Ms Zatuliveter's detention, and she had not asked for assistance from diplomats. He said: "We have not received any request from any interested parties."

Echoes of 'real life Bond girl'

THE case of Katia Zatuliveter echoes that of Anna Chapman, the glamorous Russian spy caught in New York earlier this year.

Dubbed the real-life Bond girl, the 28-year-old reportedly has an IQ of 162, a diplomat father, model looks and a taste for the high life.

She graduated with first-class honours after studying a masters in economics in Moscow and lived in London before moving to America, where she joined a spy ring to infiltrate political circles.

Chapman pleaded guilty to a charge of conspiracy to act as an agent of a foreign government without notifying the U.S. Attorney General and was deported back to Russia on July 8 as part of the 2010 Russia–United States prisoner swap.