10 Sep 2019 12:19

Kremlin denies that man identified by U.S. media as spy and defector ever worked at Presidential Affairs Directorate

MOSCOW. Sept 10 (Interfax) - Oleg Smolenkov, who some media have described as a former high-ranking Russian official who spied and ultimately defected for the United States, has never served at the Russian Presidential Affairs Directorate, Yelena Krylova, the directorate's spokesperson, told Interfax.

"Such a person hasn't worked for us," Krylova said when asked by Interfax to comment on the said media reports.

An informed source told Interfax earlier that "Smolenkov left for Montenegro along with his family in the fall of 2017 and has never returned home."

The source said people who knew Smolenkov reported his disappearance to law enforcement agencies, which subsequently opened a criminal investigation into the murder of two or more people. Moreover, "Russian special services" later scrutinized Smolenkov's disappearance, the source said.

Kommersant reported on Tuesday that Smolenkov, a suspected informant of U.S. special services, might have resurfaced in the U.S.

Kommersant said earlier, citing Russian Telegram channels, that Smolenkov, who disappeared in 2017 during a family vacation to Montenegro, might have been a high-ranking informant of the CIA evacuated from Russia in the course of a special operation.

A Moscow unit of the Russian Investigative Committee held a preliminary inquiry and opened a murder case following the disappearance of Smolenkov and his family, Kommersant said with reference to sources in Russian law enforcement agencies.

"The investigation continued with several pauses until detectives and Federal Security Service officers found out that the presumed victims were alive and staying in a foreign country," the newspaper said.

Kommersant referred to the Washington Post website, which reported the purchase of a house in Stafford, Virginia, by a certain Oleg and Antonina Smolenkov for about $925,000 on July 5, 2018.

CNN reported a special operation, which evacuated a valuable informant from Russia, on September 9. According to the channel's sources, the informant was evacuated for fear he might be exposed, in particular, because of negligent handing of confidential information by President Donald Trump and members of his administration.

According to the New York Times, the CIA recruited and thoroughly trained a middle-ranked Russian official some decades ago. He rapidly rose up the ranks, took a senior position, and acquired access to top-ranking Kremlin officials.

Sources said he became the CIA's most valuable and cherished asset when Washington learned about attempts of Russia's interference in the U.S. presidential election in 2016.

The media learned about the informant during the inquiry into attempted interference, and a decision to evacuate him was made in late 2016, the newspaper said.

Meanwhile, the television channel NBC said with reference to its sources that the Russian spy named by CNN and New York Times was openly living under his own name in the area of Washington and enjoyed the protection of the U.S. government.