An interpreter for Ukraine’s prime minister who was photographed with Theresa May inside Downing Street has been arrested on suspicion of working as a Russian spy.
Ukraine’s SBU security service arrested Stanislav Yezhov on Wednesday evening in the capital, Kiev. Video showed two officers leading him away. Yezhov had worked “for the enemy state [Russia] for a long time,” the prime minister, Volodymyr Groysman, declared on his Facebook page.
The arrest is embarrassing for the Ukrainian authorities. Yezhov was based inside the cabinet of ministers and had regular high-level access to sensitive information. He travelled on high-profile trips to the west, including to London and Washington.
The alleged Russian spy visited Downing Street in July when Groysman held talks with the prime minister.
In June 2016 he visited the White House and interpreted for Groysman during a meeting with the then US vice-president, Joe Biden.
The SBU said in a statement that Russian intelligence had recruited Yezhov during a “long-term foreign mission”. It supplied him with “special equipment” which was used to collect information about the “activities of [Ukrainian] government structures”.
Yezhov allegedly sent data back to his Moscow handles via electronic communication channels. It was unclear how long this lasted or how exactly the channels functioned.
Tensions between Kiev and Moscow remain high more than three years after the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, seized Crimea and stirred up a conflict in eastern Ukraine, backing and arming pro-Russia rebels.
The war put a stop to cooperation between Ukrainian and Russia intelligence agencies. They had traditionally worked closely together, with strong personal ties between senior officers from both countries who had during Soviet times typically attended KGB training academies together.
Yezhov was in custody on Thursday. His workplace and home were being searched, the SBU said, and he was likely to face charges of state treason.