Russian presidential spokesperson Dmitry Peskov stated on 11 September that the Kremlin cannot confirm if Oleg Smolenkov, who has been dubbed a CIA spy in the media, had access to intelligence reports during his work in the Russian government. Peskov, however, recalled that although Smolenkov worked in the presidential administration, he was a low-ranking official.
The Kremlin’s spokesman also couldn’t confirm if Smolenkov had indeed been recruited by the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to spy on the Russian government and president.
“We know that there was such an official and that he was fired. We don’t know whether he was or was not a [US] spy. [Russian] intelligence services will handle that question. They are doing their job”, Peskov said.
Smolenkov’s work in the presidential administration was confirmed on 10 September by Peskov, who noted that he never held “high-ranking, [presidentially]-appointed posts” and was later fired under an internal directive.
Smolenkov’s name surfaced in light of a CNN report claiming that the CIA had to urgently extract a spy working in the Russian government in 2017, without specifying his name. The urgency of the task was caused by the intelligence agency suspecting that US President Donald Trump could leak info on the spy’s identity in talks with the Russian foreign minister.
Following the CNN publication, Russian newspaper Kommersant reported that the extracted agent could be Oleg Smolenkov, a Russian official who disappeared along with his family after travelling to Montenegro in 2017. According to Kommersant, Russian authorities initially suspected that he could have been murdered, but later learned that he was living abroad and dropped the investigation.
US President Donald Trump said that he is unaware of alleged spy extraction, while White House spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham has called the story “incorrect” and potentially dangerous. The CIA, for its part, has slammed the CNN report as “false”.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov stated on 10 September that the US president never “revealed any state secrets or even non-state ones” during their meeting in 2017 and added that many people, who were present at the talks can confirm this.