Russia has asked the United States via Interpol to provide information on the whereabouts of a former member of Vladimir Putin’s administration who is believed to have been a CIA informant.
The alleged CIA mole, named this week by Russian media as Oleg Smolenkov, was whisked to safety by US intelligence agents during a family holiday in Montenegro in June 2017, CNN reported earlier this week.
“A citizen of Russia disappeared on the territory of a foreign state along with his family,” a Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova, said. “Two years later, American media throws up a story about how he is in the United States … Interpol was presented with questions regarding the disappearance of a foreign citizen and his presence on the territory of the United States.”
Smolenkov is reported to have worked at the Russian embassy under ambassador Yury Ushakov in Washington. He then followed the ambassador back to Moscow in 2008, when Ushakov was appointed foreign policy adviser to Putin. Ushakov declined to comment when asked on Thursday if he knew Smolenkov.
CNN said that the alleged CIA spy had been feeding information to the United States for decades, and had direct contact with Putin. It also said he had confirmed to US intelligence that Russia’s president oversaw the Kremlin’s alleged interference in the 2016 American presidential elections that brought Trump to power.
Zakharova said the US media reports were linked to American domestic politics before next year’s presidential vote. “This is classic propaganda,” she said.
The Kremlin confirmed this week that Smolenkov had worked in the presidential administration, but said he had been fired several years ago and did not have access to Putin. Dmitry Peskov, Putin’s spokesman, called the CNN report “pulp fiction”.
Franz Klintsevich, a member of the Russian upper house’s defense and security committee, said CNN’s story was “a fake” aimed at discrediting Trump by portraying him as incompetent and “capable of ruining almost the entire US intelligence network with his awkward actions”.
On Friday, RTVi, a New York-based Russian-language media outlet, published a photograph of a man it said was Smolenkov.
It also published an interview with a man named Yevgeny Agafonov, who said he was the former husband of Smolenkov’s wife, Antonina, and the father of her eldest child, Ivan. Agafonov accused the Smolenkovs of taking the boy to the United States without his permission. He said he had not spoken to his son since June 2017.