Labour MP pulled before chief whip for inviting 'Russian spy' to tea in the Commons
STANDART HELPED BRITISH MI5
What was not reported in Mail on Sunday, is that there was a second MP, Labor's Norman Baker, who tabled a Request about Mikhail Cherney. That Request was tabled by MP Baker in October 2007. Parliament's records have registered that. A month later, in November, Israeli police have arrested a group of anti-Mikhail Cherney plotters, their e-correspondence has surfaced and it became clear that using British MPs against Mikhail Cherney was part of their wide smear campaignBy Glen Owen
Last updated at 10:54 PM on 28th June 2008
A senior MP has received a warning from Downing Street after MI5 discovered that he was holding meetings with a suspected Russian spy.
Andrew MacKinlay, a Labour member of the powerful Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, was carpeted by Government Chief Whip Geoff Hoon after the intelligence services reported that he had tea with the agent at the House of Commons.
The man, Alexander Polyakov, works as a counsellor at the Russian Embassy in London but is thought to report back to the SVR - the infamous agency once known as the KGB.
Watch out: Andrew MacKinlay MP was warned by Chief Whip Geoff Hoon that he was being 'targeted by a Russian spy'
In classic spy-thriller fashion, British agents followed Mr Polyakov as he headed to Parliament for his rendezvous. After alarmed MI5 chiefs contacted Downing Street, Mr Hoon summoned Mr MacKinlay to warn him that he was 'being targeted by a Russian spy' and that it 'would not look good if it came out'.
Undeterred, Mr MacKinlay continued to meet Mr Polyakov at locations around London and put down a series of parliamentary questions on Russian matters.
In the two months from July last year, when the Commons meeting took place, the MP placed six questions about Russia. In one, he asked Home Secretary Jacqui Smith why Britain had granted political asylum to Boris Berezovsky (the exiled enemy of Russian PM Vladimir Putin), who had been close to Putin critic Alexander Litvinenko, assassinated in London by poison in 2006.
His other questions concerned the number of accredited Russian diplomats, extradition provisions between the two countries and the circumstances surrounding last summer's deportation of a Russian suspected of plotting to murder Mr Berezovsky.
'We have never discussed Russian emigres or businessmen, just international affairs... it's part of my job,' said Mr MacKinlay, currently on a week-long parliamentary visit to Kazakhstan.
'Hoon said to me, "In my previous job [Defence Secretary] I met people... you should realise you are being targeted by a Russian spy," adding that it wouldn't look good if it was publicised.'
Asked if he thought Mr Polyakov was a spy, Mr MacKinlay said: 'Not any more than any other foreign diplomat is.'
However, a senior Government source told The Mail on Sunday that Mr Polyakov was believed to be one of the more senior Russian agents in the UK. 'We were doing Mr MacKinlay a favour by warning him,' the source said.
The 'tea at the Commons' came at a sensitive time for Anglo-Russian relations - it was the height of Britain's row with Moscow over Andrei Lugovoi, prime suspect in the killing of Litvinenko, which led to the expulsion of four Russian diplomats that same July.
One of Russia's richest men: Oleg Deripaska is said to have wanted to use Andrew MacKinlay in a High Court battle. His partner, Polina, is close with Chelsea FC's owner Roman Abramovich's partner, Daria Zhukova (far left)
In a further, bizarre twist it has been claimed that Mr MacKinlay was targeted by aides of a Russian oligarch as a 'stooge' for use in a High Court battle. According to a report in the Bulgarian newspaper Standart, pro-Kremlin advisers to Russia's richest man, Oleg Deripaska, are said to have wanted to deploy him against Michael Cherney, who is suing Mr Deripaska for $1.5billion.
The report claimed aides to Mr Deripaska - who is worth $14billion - drafted a propaganda campaign two months before the 'tea', which included 'mobilising' Mr MacKinlay to help to block Mr Cherney - worth $2billion - from settling in the UK.
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Mr MacKinlay says that around this time he received an email purporting to be from the human rights group Amnesty in relation to Mr Cherney; the organisation has no record of sending this.
'It seemed a bit odd at the time - not the sort of thing they would do,' said Mr MacKinlay.
Mr Deripaska - not named in the email affair - is close to fellow billionaire and Chelsea FC owner Roman Abramovich, and Deripaska's wife, Polina, is close to Roman's partner, Daria Zhukova.
A spokesman for Mr Deripaska said: 'The allegations this story contains belong in the pages of fiction, so it would be ridiculous to dignify them with a comment.'
There is no suggestion that the alleged smear plan is linked to his cloak-and-dagger meetings --but Mr MacKinlay thinks MI5 have made that connection.
'I'm bloody terrified to be honest,' he added. 'It's the sort of thing you read about but don't expect to happen.'