A senior Ukrainian government interpreter who attended sensitive security talks with Theresa May inside Downing Street has been arrested for allegedly spying for the Kremlin.
Ukraine’s security service on Thursday said it had arrested Stanislav Yezhov and opened a treason investigation, five months after he accompanied the country’s Prime Minister on an official visit to London.
The interpreter for Ukrainian cabinet ministers had been recruited by a Russian intelligence agency and had been electronically passing them secrets, authorities in Kiev alleged.
Mr Yezhov was seen in photographs interpreting for Volodymyr Groysman at a meeting with Mrs May at Downing Street in July, as well as a meeting with Joe Biden, then US vice president, in 2016.
Mr Groysman said in a Facebook post the spy had “long been working in the interests of a hostile government”, but it was not clear if he was already thought to be spying at the time of the London visit.
"The action that’s been taken is a matter for the Ukrainian authorities.”
Boris Johnson, the Foreign Secretary, said the incident highlighted the need to ensure the Ukraine "isn’t captured by the wrong influences".
Speaking on a flight to Moscow, where he will raise the issue of hacking and cyber warfare, Mr Johnson said: "We want Ukraine to go on the right path and we are worried that Ukraine needs more encouragement, more help, to reform and make sure it isn’t captured by the wrong influences.
"I think possibly what this episode shows is that with the real difficulties and risks that the Ukrainian Government is running they need a lot of encouragement and a lot of support."
Mr Yezhov was seen being led away in handcuffs after his arrest. Oleksiy Petrov, head of the Ukraine security service’s counter-intelligence department said Mr Yezhov had “access to fairly specific insider information in the cabinet of ministers”.
He told a Ukraine television channel: “He was respected. He was working for the Russian special services very responsibly, thoroughly and creatively.”
Mr Petrov called Mr Yezhov a “rat in glasses”.
Ukrainian Pravda newspaper reported that security services had discovered the alleged spy several months ago, but allowed him to continue working as an interpreter while secretly gathering evidence against him.
Mr Yezhov’s wife is a Russian citizen and a declaration he filed in March about his family’s property revealed significant financial ties to the country.
His wife Yulia Miroshnikova, with whom he has a daughter worked at the Washington-based energy consulting firm Numark Associates, according to the declaration.
Ms Miroshnikova Ms Miroshnikova had holdings of 286,641 roubles and $31,713 in the Russian state bank Sberbank.
Ukrainian media reported that Mr Yezhov had once worked at the Ukrainian embassy in the United States and suggested he had been recruited in Washington DC.
Meanwhile a Commons debate on Moscow’s interference in UK politics was interrupted while a "Russian diplomat" was escorted from the public gallery after accusations he was "filming and taking pictures".
Labour MPs Chris Bryant and Ben Bradshaw could be seen pointing at the mystery man during a debate on Russian interference in UK politics.
However the man, speaking outside the public gallery, expressed his confusion at the accusations.
Speaking anonymously, he said: "I work for a think tank in London, my phone is taped up over the camera so I can’t take pictures.
"I was just here for the day, I didn’t know what was happening."
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During the debate, Mr Bradshaw could be heard saying: "He is from the Russian Embassy. He has been taking pictures."
After several exchanges with Mr Bradshaw, Mr Bryant approached a door keeper to express concern and the man, who was wearing a grey suit and yellow tie, was temporarily removed from the gallery.
However, he returned several minutes later and remained in his seat for the rest of the debate.