The accused man, Alexander Malikov, spoke to the Independent because he said that, along with the Financial Times, it was the paper he had taken since coming to Britain four years ago. With his reputation as a foreign correspondent in tatters and a 20-year career with the Russian state television channel Ostankino in jeopardy, he used the interview virtually to beg the Home Secretary to say it had all been a great mistake and he would be allowed to continue his glamorous career as a correspondent in London.
When he is eventually deported at the beginning of next month, subject to his appeal being rejected, colleagues who know Mr Malikov well say that what will hurt him most will be the loss of the well-appointed flat he shares with his wife, Marina, in Kensington, west London, and an income from sources outside journalism that has funded an elaborate lifestyle. According to colleagues, he recently bought a new Saab 900 turbo.
The money did not come from Mr Malikov's salary from the television station, which amounts to little more than £500 a month, associates say, but from business deals here and in Russia.
One colleague said he was "involved in all sorts of things", from producing videos on Andrei Chikatilo, the "Rostov Ripper" who killed and mutilated 52 women and children, to film production and other business deals.
Indeed, Mr Malikov may have been so desperate to fund his lifestyle that he became involved in industrial espionage activities on behalf of the Russian intelligence service soon after arriving here in 1990, a time when the KGB station in London was in a state of disarray due to the turmoil in Moscow.
Mr Malikov flatly denied the accusation yesterday, however, saying he had no business interests whatsoever outside his job for the television network. He dismissed as ridiculous the suggestion of involvement in industrial espionage.
"I am neither a serving nor a retired intelligence officer, nor even a `special agent' like Richard Gott of the Guardian," he said.
"It is impossible to wear two hats. You cannot be a good correspondent and an intelligence officer or anything else, at the same time . . . I was a rising star in national television. All my career I have avoided [Communist] party members and KGB people and now this has happened to me. It is a nightmare."
Home Office sources say that Mr Malikov's appeal is unlikely to succeed, however, given the weight of evidence that the security service MI5 has collected about his espionage activities. This has led to the unambiguous conclusion that the 43-year-old correspondent is "an officer of the Russian Federation Intelligence Service (RFIS)" - the contemporary version of the KGB.Reuse content