Spy Anna Chapman will NOT be allowed back in Britain: Home Office to revoke Russian femme fatale's citizenship and passportBy Jason Lewis and Will Stewart
The decision came as Ms Chapman was yesterday undergoing debriefing by Russian secret services on her spying activities in the West and her arrest by the FBI, following an emotional reunion with her family.
Like the nine other spies returned to Moscow from the US, the 28-year-old redhead has been kept out of sight since FSB secret service cars whisked them away from a Russian government Yak-42 jet moments after it touched down on Friday.
It is understood Chapman has been reunited with her father Vasily, 52, who is officially listed as a 'diplomat' but is a senior career spy. She also saw her mother Irina, 51, and sister Katya, 23.
Chapman said that she wanted to return to live in London following her conviction in the US but, in addition to the Home Office probe, she is under investigation by MI5 regarding her activities in Britain before she moved to New York.
British Government lawyers are understood to be spending the weekend examining the case, but privately, senior Whitehall officials confirmed yesterday that her passport and citizenship would be withdrawn and she was likely to be put on a secret watch list barring her from entering the country.
The lawyers are understood to believe that she could lose her right to live in Britain on the grounds that her marriage to her British ex-husband was a sham. A Government source said: 'It has been decided that it would be highly distasteful if she were allowed back into Britain.'
An email sent by Chapman to a former boyfriend in Russia raised questions over her four-year marriage to public schoolboy Alex Chapman. In it she boasted: 'We lived together for the first year, then after we got married, we moved to London. Then I dumped him, got the passport and continued living in London on my own.'
Chapman is understood to be staying with her family outside the Russian capital. She became the poster girl for the spy ring of 'illegals' – or undeclared agents with diplomatic protection – that is now being widely mocked in Russia for having spent huge sums of taxpayers' money while achieving no known results.
Far from greeting the returning spies as heroes, the usually nationalistic Russian media yesterday played down the story, suggesting it was a significant embarrassment to the authorities. And veteran KGB agent Mikhail Lyubimov, who once lived in London, said the ring 'sounds preposterous to me, we've never used illegals like this'.
He dismissed Chapman as a 'Mata Hari' figure, suggesting she would be little use to any intelligence service and adding: 'It is a very strange exchange: Russian citizens swapped for Russian citizens.'
A Home Office spokesman said: 'The Home Secretary has the right to deprive dual nationals of their British citizenship where she considers that to do so would be conducive to the public good. This case is under urgent consideration.'
Meanwhile, the four alleged Western agents whose release was secured in the dramatic swap deal for the Russian spies were also being debriefed by MI5 in Britain and the CIA in the US.
The American willingness to quickly release ten Russian agents operating inside the US, after huge expenditures of money and manpower on a decade of surveillance, suggests the four men were seen as very important by Western intelligence.
Well before FBI agents moved against the operatives late that month, Washington had in mind that they might become bargaining chips to free Russians imprisoned for betraying Moscow and helping the West.
The US arrests were not made to facilitate a swap, an American intelligence official said yesterday, but were precipitated, at least partly, by the plans of several of the Russians to leave the US.
He said that as the time approached to take down the ring, CIA and FBI officials asked each other: 'Once the arrests take place, what do we do?' They decided that because the spies had been observed and tracked by US agents for so long, there was nothing to be learned from them, the official said.
'Once in custody, the operatives 'provided an opportunity for us to get something from the Russians'.