Mys­tery of Nick Clegg’s ‘Mata Hari’ aunt and a plot to kill Lenin

The Mail on Sunday - - Comment - By Will Ste­wart and Glen Owen

NICK CLEGG was last night urged to lift a 90-year ban on se­cret doc­u­ments that could im­pli­cate one of his an­ces­tors in a Bri­tish plot to kill Rus­sian Bol­she­vik leader Vladimir Lenin.

The Deputy Prime Min­is­ter’s great­great-aunt, Baroness Moura Bud­berg, was the lover of Robert Bruce Lock­hart, a Bri­tish diplo­mat posted in Moscow dur­ing the Rus­sian Revo­lu­tion.

Lock­hart – said to have been an inspiration for Ian Flem­ing’s James Bond – is sus­pected to have been the brains be­hind an as­sas­si­na­tion at­tempt on Lenin in Au­gust 1918.

Moura, a sex­u­ally lib­er­ated Tsarist aris­to­crat whose colour­ful love life earned her the nick­name the Mata Hari of Rus­sia, was shar­ing Lock­hart’s bed in a Bri­tish con­sular flat when Red Guards burst in to ar­rest them af­ter the at­tack.

Now a se­nior MP has called on Mr Clegg to re­lease clas­si­fied pa­pers that could shed light on his rel­a­tive’s role in the plot.

For­mer Labour De­fence Min­is­ter Ke­van Jones said: ‘Mr Clegg is al­ways harp­ing on about the need for open gov­ern­ment – why not start by au­tho­ris­ing the pub­li­ca­tion of these po­ten­tially fas­ci­nat­ing pa­pers about his an­ces­tor?’

Lenin was shot three times in the at­tack by 28year-old rev­o­lu­tion­ary Fanny Ka­plan. He sur­vived the as­sas­si­na­tion at­tempt and thou­sands were sub­se­quently ex­e­cuted in a bloody reprisal dur­ing the so-called Red Ter­ror.

Fol­low­ing their ar­rests, Lock­hart was ques­tioned in the Krem­lin while Moura was locked in a dank cell in the no­to­ri­ous Lubyanka head­quar­ters of the Rus­sian se­cret ser­vices.

Moura – whose later lovers in­cluded writers H.G. Wells and Maxim Gorky – was freed days later by Yakov Peters, deputy head of Lenin’s se­cret po­lice, amid sus­pi­cions that she had a sex­ual re­la­tion­ship with him.

Lock­hart was held for two months un­til he was re­leased in ex­change for a Soviet diplo­mat held in the UK.

Last week, Bri­tish his­to­rian Pro­fes­sor Robert Ser­vice, an ex­pert on Rus­sia, said he had un­earthed ev­i­dence that Lock­hart’s role in the plot was more sig­nif­i­cant than he ad­mit­ted in his life­time but said his in­ves­ti­ga­tions had been thwarted by the clas­si­fi­ca­tion of key doc­u­ments.

‘Bri­tain to­day has a pol­icy for its in­tel­li­gence ser­vices that is openly averse to sub­vert­ing for­eign gov­ern­ments or as­sas­si­nat­ing for­eign po­lit­i­cal lead­ers,’ said Prof Ser­vice.

‘The think­ing in White­hall is that the pre­tence ought to be that this has al­ways been the case. That the Bri­tish have al­ways been clean.

‘But the Bri­tish haven’t al­ways been clean. They have been as dirty as any­one else.’

Moura, who died in 1974 aged 82, has been long sus­pected of work­ing for both the Sovi­ets and the Bri­tish and it is be­lieved she was in­ves­ti­gated by MI5 for 30 years. Re­tired Rus­sian spy Igor Pre­lin, who has re­searched the KGB ar­chives, re­vealed that Moura was close to Gen­rikh Yagoda, di­rec­tor of the NKVD, the Soviet se­cret ser­vice that op­er­ated un­der Lenin’s bru­tal suc­ces­sor Joseph Stalin.

Ac­cord­ing to Pre­lin, Yagoda, one of Stalin’s most re­pug­nant butch­ers, ar­ranged visas for Moura to go in and out of the USSR with ease.

‘We know for sure that she was in close touch with Yagoda, and it is likely she was his lover,’ Pre­lin re­vealed. ‘When Yagoda was con­victed at his show trial in 1936, one of the charges against him was the il­le­gal is­su­ing of visas for Moura. ‘I would call her a pri­vate agent to Yagoda – not of­fi­cially reg­is­tered with the se­cret ser­vices, but a per­sonal source.’

In1951Moura, whose niece Kira mar­ried Clegg’s pa­ter­nal grand­fa­ther Hugh, in­formed MI5 about Bri­tish spy An­thony Blunt’s Soviet sym­pa­thies, but her in­tel­li­gence was con­sid­ered to be un­re­li­able and she was ig­nored. Blunt’s treach­ery was not pub­licly re­vealed un­til 1979. De­spite her many li­aisons Moura re­garded Lock­hart as the love of her life and there is ev­i­dence she be­came preg­nant by him but lost the baby.

Lock­hart, who died in 1970 aged 83, al­ways de­nied be­ing in­volved in the Lenin at­tack. But in a letter found in Amer­i­can ar­chives, his son Robin writes that his fa­ther was ‘much more closely in­volved’ with the plot­ters than he had pub­licly in­di­cated.

Moura’s fa­ther, Ig­natiy Platonovich Zakrevsky, who was Mr Clegg’s great­great-grand­fa­ther and Tsar Ni­cholas II’s en­voy to Egypt, was just as ec­cen­tric as his daugh­ter. He be­came so ob­sessed with the pyra­mids that he built a replica – which still stands to­day – on his Ukrainian es­tate.

Mr Clegg’s eclec­tic roots mean he is a quar­ter Rus­sian, a quar­ter English and half Dutch.

The Lib­eral Demo­crat leader’s ma­ter­nal grand­fa­ther, Her­man Willem Alexan­der van den Wall Bake, a friend of the Dutch royal fam­ily, was pres­i­dent of the Nether­lands’ bank­ing gi­ant ABN Amro.

A spokes­woman for Mr Clegg said last night that he would not be cam­paign­ing to re­lease the doc­u­ments about his great-great-aunt.

RED RID­DLE: Vladimir Lenin, above, Moura Bud­berg, right, and, be­low, diplo­mat Robert Bruce Lock­hart

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