The Russian ambassador to London is to leave his post after eight years – just weeks after The Mail on Sunday revealed he may have worked in the US as a Soviet spy.
Alexander Yakovenko, 64, became a contentious figure after making mocking remarks about the Salisbury poisoning attack, which nearly killed Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia and led to the death of British mother Dawn Sturgess.
In March, a Mail on Sunday investigation suggested Mr Yakovenko was expelled from the US during a purge of agents at the height of the Cold War.
Experts believe our exposé could be behind the decision to send him back to Russia.
Russian ambassador to London Alexander Yakovenko (pictured with his wife Nana) is to leave his post after eight years – just weeks after The Mail on Sunday revealed he may have worked in the US as a Soviet spy
The revelation, which Russia has strenuously denied, centred on Mr Yakovenko’s disappearance from the US in 1986 at the time the US was sending dozens of Soviet diplomats working in New York back home.
Tory MP Bob Seely and Independent MP Ian Austin, who both sit on the Foreign Affairs Committee, have written to Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt demanding that the Foreign Office declares what it knows of the circumstances surrounding Mr Yakovenko’s departure from the US.
Russian media has reported that Mr Yakovenko will leave his London post in ‘midsummer’ to become head of the Russian diplomatic academy in Moscow.
An intelligence source said of his recall: ‘The more direct attention being paid to his activities, including the news of his likely expulsion from New York, then the less able he was to do his job. His recall, and probable replacement by a more conventional mainstream diplomat, likely reflects an awareness in Moscow that an increasingly sceptical British Government is paying greater attention to who Russia chooses to represent it.’
Tory MP Bob Seely (left) and Independent MP Ian Austin (right) both wrote to Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt demanding that the Foreign Office declares what it knows of the circumstances surrounding Mr Yakovenko’s departure from the US
Dr Andrew Foxall (pictured) said: ‘Since 1991, Russia’s ambassadors in London have served either three or five-year terms. Mr Yakovenko has served eight… it seems unlikely from this perspective that his leaving is part of a scheduled change’
Mr Seely said: ‘The ambassador allowed himself to become a figure of comedy rather than a serious diplomat. The Mail on Sunday’s brilliant exposé of him as someone who was, very probably, a former spy, compounded his problems.’
Dr Andrew Foxall, director of the Russia Studies Centre at the Henry Jackson Society, added: ‘Since 1991, Russia’s ambassadors in London have served either three or five-year terms. Mr Yakovenko has served eight. Given that eight isn’t easily divisible by three or five, it seems unlikely from this perspective that his leaving is part of a scheduled change.’
The Foreign Office last night confirmed the ambassador would be leaving his post.
The Russian authorities have dismissed accusations that Mr Yakovenko was a spy as ‘a blatant lie’. Last night they did not respond to requests to comment on his departure from London.