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Security concerns after spy claims

MPs have questioned parliamentary security following revelations that a suspected Russian spy worked undetected in the House of Commons.

Liberal Democrat MP Mike Hancock has stood by his assistant Katia Zatuliveter insisting she had "nothing to hide" as she faced deportation for allegedly being a spy. Mr Hancock challenged the security services to produce evidence against Ms Zatuliveter, who was arrested on Thursday morning and is currently being held at an immigration detention centre.

The 25-year-old, who came to the UK three years ago to study a masters degree 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.

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

Meanwhile, MPs said there must be a security review of Parliament if the system was breached. Shadow foreign secretary Yvette Cooper told BBC1's Andrew Marr Show 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."

Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith told Sky News: "I have never seen or met her and the trouble is I would say normally this would be a joke but actually after what's been going on with some of the spies that Russia seems to have put into all sorts of places, you have to take it quite seriously really I suppose."

On Sunday, it emerged 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.

It is not known what prompted Ms Zatuliveter's arrest but a source told The Sunday Times she was no longer welcome in the UK. The source said: "Her presence here is not considered to be conducive to national security. There was unhappiness about what she could have access to. The intention is to show her the door."

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

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

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