Ex-KGB agent leaves Canada after hiding in Vancouver church for six years to avoid deportation

A former agent who spent six years hiding in a Vancouver church to avoid deportation to has left after surrendering to immigration enforcement authorities, his lawyer said Sunday.

, 55, voluntarily left the church in which he had sought sanctuary in 2009. He was escorted by Canada Border Services Agency officers to Toronto, where he boarded a flight to Moscow.

“I can confirm he left, he’s no longer in the country,” said Hadayt Nazami, his Toronto immigration lawyer. “It was a voluntary departure through negotiations. He wasn’t deported.”

He declined to explain why Lennikov had decided to give up his fight. He said the Russian had been negotiating an agreement with the CBSA for some time. The deal did not involve Lennikov going to any country other than Russia, he said.

NIck Procaylo / Postmedia News fileNIck Procaylo / Postmedia News fileFormer KGB agent Mikhail Lennikov and his wife Irina and son Dmitri at home in Burnaby, B.C. Feb. 28, 2009.

He confirmed CBSA officers had not entered the church. Lennikov still has several cases outstanding in the Canadian courts, Nazami added. “I’ll be continuing to represent him with those applications.”

Lennikov was one of a handful of asylum seekers holed up inside Canadian churches to avoid deportation. The CBSA has refrained from entering places of worship to make arrests.

His high-profile case became politicized, with the NDP calling Lennikov an example of “a really wrong-headed immigration policy by this government” and arguing the Russian was not a threat to Canada.

The Conservatives, meanwhile, supported his deportation, saying that as a former member of the notorious Soviet state security apparatus he was unwelcome in Canada.

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Lennikov began cooperating with the KGB while he was at Far Eastern State University, where he was active in the communist youth league. Hired in 1982, he was assigned to the Japanese section of the Vladivostok office.

“His work included translating documents, assessing prospective Japanese informants’ credibility and continuing contact with some student informants from Far Eastern State University,” the Federal Court wrote in a ruling.

He “rose through the ranks in the KGB” until 1988, when he wrote a report outlining why he was unsuited for KGB work and “was dismissed on the grounds that he was incapable of service,” the court said.

He left for Japan and arrived at the University of British Columbia in 1997 on a study permit. Two years later, he applied to become a permanent resident but was rejected over his KGB past.

Wayne Leidenfrost / Postmedia News fileWayne Leidenfrost / Postmedia News fileMikhail Lennikov inhis room at the First Lutheran Church in Vancouver in 2009.

“He admits to having reported directly to the department of the KGB responsible for foreign intelligence and espionage, and further admits to having directly contributed to these functions, as well as engaging in recruitment activities,” the CBSA wrote.

It said while he maintained he had joined the KGB under duress, had not engaged in spying and was “a law-abiding resident with extensive ties to the community,” his presence in Canada was deemed “contrary to the national interest.”

Although his wife and son have been accepted as immigrants, Lennikov was deemed inadmissible to Canada for espionage and ordered deported, a decision upheld by the Federal Court in 2009.

Before he could be returned to Russia, he entered the First Lutheran Church in Vancouver and stayed there until just days ago. His lawyer said he believed Lennikov left Canada on Saturday.

The lawyer said he had not heard whether Lennikov had arrived in Russia. Lennikov had earlier said he feared being charged with treason by Russian authorities because he had revealed the names of KGB agents.

National Post

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