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