Russian Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova has confirmed that former Russian presidential administration employee Oleg Smolenkov, whom CNN considers a CIA agent, also worked in the Russian embassy in the US. She added that she did not know him personally, and that he was involved in economic matters.
“At some point in his career he worked in our embassy in Washington. I have no more to comment on that. I did not know him personally, our paths did not cross. The only thing I know from the personal assessments of coworkers is that he was involved in economic matters,” Zakharova said in an interview with Julia Dorenko, wife of the late journalist Sergey Dorenko.
The Foreign Ministry representative emphasized that the reports of Smolenkov’s ties to the CIA came from CNN, which did not contact the Russian department for comment. “It’s a strange situation. Normally they ask us to comment when there are similar stories,” she added.
“Unfortunately, in the USA the media has already split up into internal political camps. It’s a case of ‘us and them’, depending on preferences. A large number of internal political developments in the US cause a wave of questions for Russia,” the diplomat observed.
“I think that the timing was chosen deliberately. The election race has already begun, there are candidates who are being written down as promising or possible in the context of the upcoming presidential elections in America in 2020,” Zakharova continued.
The spokeswoman noted that the Russian Foreign Ministry has made an official inquiry into Smolenkov’s whereabouts.
On September 9, CNN reported that in 2017 the CIA exfiltrated one of its agents who had worked in the Russian presidential administration. The New York Times wrote that the spy had held an influential position.
A source in the US government told Kommersant that the exfiltrated spy was Oleg Smolenkov. On September 12, 2017, Smolenkov and his family went on holiday to Montenegro. When they did not return to Russia, the Russian authorities considered them missing or killed. On September 10, 2019, Kremlin Spokesperson Dmitry Peskov confirmed that Smolenkov had worked in the presidential administration, but said that his position was “insignificant”.
According to NBC News, the Smolenkovs have lived in Stafford, Virginia, since they left Russia. Greg Talley, one of their neighbors, said that the family abandoned their house after the press started contacting them.