CIA’s Kremlin ‘agent’ is pictured for the first time
BREAKING NEWS: CIA’s Kremlin ‘agent’ is pictured for the first time as Kremlin insider warns source who photographed documents on Putin’s desk could end up ‘dead in a parking lot’ after fleeing to the U.S.
- Oleg Smolenkov has been pictured for the first time in a photo of him as a Russian foreign ministry employee
- The 50-year-old has been widely named in Russia as the CIA asset who was ‘exfiltrated’ last year by the agency amid fears he was in danger
- He then lived outside Washington D.C. in a $925,000 home under his own name for a year before he was outed
- He’s believed to have photographed secret documents on Putin’s desk and provided intelligence about Russia’s attempts to interfere in the 2016 election
- Former FSB general Aleksandr Mikhailov, 68, said that it was ‘unlikely’ Russia would seek to assassinate the ex-chief of staff for Yuri Ushakov
- When asked if Smolenkov’s case would be like the UK’s Skripal case, he replied: ‘Or a burglar in the parking lot will break his head’
Local media released a photo on Thursday of suspected defector Oleg Smolenkov when he was a Russian foreign ministry employee
This is the Kremlin official who is believed to have photographed and shared documents on Russian President Vladmir Putin’s desk.
Smolenkov, 50, has been widely named in Russia as the CIA asset who was ‘exfiltrated’ last year by the agency amid fears he was in danger then lived outside Washington D.C. under his own name for a year before being outed.
Local media released a photo on Thursday of the suspected defector when he was a Russian foreign ministry employee.
Smolenkov, was an aide to Yuri Ushakov first at the Russian embassy in Washington D.C. in the early 2000s – Ushakov was Kremlin ambassador to the U.S. from 1999 to 2008 – and then in the Kremlin, where Ushakov was seen as Putin’s most powerful foreign affairs adviser.
He has been said to have been so close to Putin that he could photograph secret documents on the Kremlin strongman’s desk, and provided key intelligence about Russia’s attempts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election.
The Kremlin foreign minister has denied there was a mole and claimed the proof was that there was no election interference.
In Moscow, Russia said it had formally asked the United States via Interpol to confirm the whereabouts of the former Kremlin official, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said Thursday.
Zakharova said Russia had opened a criminal case after their disappearance and had now learned via the media that Smolenkov and his family were in the United States.
Center of the claims: The CIA is said to have had a mole at the heart of Vladimir Putin’s Kremlin until May 2017.
Former FSB general Aleksandr Mikhailov, 68, said that it was ‘unlikely’ Russia would seek to assassinate the ex-chief of staff for Yuri Ushakov – but said Smolenkov could ‘end up with his head broken’
‘Of course this information needs checking via the appropriate channels,’ said Zakharova.
His identity as the CIA’s mole has been widely reported in Moscow but not confirmed in Washington.
Meanwhile former FSB general Aleksandr Mikhailov, 68, claimed that it was ‘unlikely’ Russia would seek to assassinate the ex-chief of staff of Putin’s powerful foreign affairs aide – but he still predicted a gruesome fate for the turncoat.
He was asked in an interview about Smolenkov living openly and under his own name in Virginia.
‘There may be several reasons – first, the American intelligence agencies do not see any danger for him,’ he said.
‘Second, they simply do not need him anymore.
‘He told everything that he could, so now his fate in principle does not bother them.’
But he also claimed that America may be staging a ‘provocation’ over the revelation on Smolenkov.
When asked by reporters if it could be like the Skripal case in Britain – when former GRU spy Sergei Skripal, who spied for MI6, and his daughter Yulia, were poisoned with chemical warfare agent and the Kremlin will be blamed everything again.’
He replied: ‘[Like that] for example.
Russian media have identified the alleged CIA spy in the Kremlin as Oleg Smolenkov, an aide to former ambassador to the U.S. Yury Ushakov (pictured in April this year)
Boast: Oleg Smolenkov carried this bound and embossed notebook labeled Administration of the President of the Russian Federation, a family member posted on social media
‘Or a burglar in the parking lot will break his head.
‘There are many options.
‘Americans are very good at counting money.
Fears for Russian mole after poison attack in Britain
Intelligence officials fear that the mole who was extracted from Moscow may still be under threat in the United States.
Those fears appear well-founded after another former Russian spy, Sergei Skripal, was poisoned in Britain in March last year.
Two Russian assassins smeared the nerve agent Novichok on Skripal’s front door in Salisbury after flying over from Moscow, UK authorities say.
Sergei and his daughter Yulia Skripal were taken seriously ill but both survived.
However, another woman died after she was accidentally exposed to the Soviet-era nerve agent.
Britain accused the Kremlin and its GRU intelligence chiefs of ordering the attack, sparking a wave of diplomatic expulsions.
UK police identified two men, Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov, as the hit-men and the government said Putin was ‘ultimately responsible’ for the poisonings.
But Russia’s government has denied all involvement and the two men claimed in a bizarre interview that they were only there to see Salisbury’s cathedral.
Skripal was a Russian military intelligence officer who was convicted of spying for Britain.
He was imprisoned in Russia and released as part of a spy swap with the West, which took place in Vienna in 2010.
His current whereabouts are unknown.
In 2006 another former Russian agent, Alexander Litvinenko, was killed by a radioactive poison at a London hotel.
A public inquiry concluded that he had been murdered by Russian intelligence, likely with the approval of President Vladimir Putin.
Similarly, Britain named two suspects but the Kremlin denied everything.
‘They do nothing by chance, they are trying to calculate everything in terms of possible losses or gains.’
Mikhailov was former spokesman for both the Soviet era KGB and its successor the FSB.
Now in business, he frequently comments on issues involving the secret services.
He also worked in a senior role in Russian government communications as Putin took control two decades ago.
He claimed the CIA ‘know that Russia will not go for, say, elimination of the defector. There is no need.
‘Moreover, his murder is likely to be turned into another scandal, like the story with the Skripals.
‘This is reputation loss, a ready-made scandal for the Russian leadership. The Americans do not even need to do anything. Do we need this?
‘Especially given that we have a legal state.
‘It is unlikely that we will make such a decision.
‘Anyway, why kill him if he already told everything?
‘Here we certainly impose a kind of conspiracy theology, but in reality everything can be much simpler.’
He claimed the leak of Smolenkov’s defection may have been made public to reheat the story about Russian interference in the US election.
It may have been ‘in anticipation of the upcoming presidential election in the United States.’
The New York Times reported that the Kremlin source used by the CIA had been ‘instrumental’ in concluding that Putin ordered the disruption of the 2016 election and wanted Trump elected.
That would track closely with what Steele wrote about his source’s information.
There is little doubt Smolenkov was a key Kremlin figure; he was known to carry a gold-embossed notebook marked ‘Administration of the President of the Russian Federation.’
Vedomosti newspaper in Moscow reported Wednesday that ‘he had access to quite sensitive information,’ according to a source with secret services links.
This included ‘information of the intelligence services.’
He had the potential to inflict ‘quite significant damage’ to Russia, it was reported.
Smolenkov has not been seen at his $925,000 home in Stafford, VA, since CNN reported that there had been a CIA mole at the heart of the Putin regime.
It is not the first time he has vanished – he had previously gone missing in May 2017, a month after Trump hosted Kislyak and Sergei Lavrov, Putin’s foreign minister, in the Oval Office.
Smolenkov went to Montenegro with his family after obtaining permission from his management and registering his vacation with the secret services and other officials.
Virginia home: Oleg Smolenkov and his wife Antonia bought this $925,000, six-bedroom home on a cul-de-sac in Stafford, VA, a suburb close to Quantico
The backyard of the Virginia home is a far-cry from his home in a Moscow tower
Dingy: The former home of the Smolenkov family is nine miles north of the Kremlin and a far cry from their Virginia six-bedroom spread
‘He did not return and switched off all means of communication’ including private phones and emails, said Vedomosti citing its sources.
‘But even then his acquaintances did not suppose that Smolenkov could be a CIA agent.
‘Practically everyone thought that something bad happened to him or an accident.’
Russia’s investigative committee filed a criminal lawsuit under article 105, ‘murder,’ into his disappearance.
Smolenkov, 50, left behind a $167,000 Moscow apartment and according to public property records, bought a six-bedroom house in Stafford, Virginia – a suburb south of Washington D.C. and close to the FBI and Marine bases in Quantico – for $925,000 the next year.
The house on a cul-de-sac has been deserted since Monday, and neighbors claimed the family had vanished after CNN revealed that the CIA had ordered its most valued asset to be ‘exfiltrated’ from Moscow in May 2017 – and after an NBC correspondent approached the home.
Reports claimed the decision to remove the spy was taken after Donald Trump’s Oval Office meeting with Russian officials in 2017 (left, Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov; right, ambassador Sergei Kislyak)
Initial reporting from CNN on Monday described a panic inside the agency after a 2017 Oval Office meeting where Trump sparked fears about what reporters called a casual approach to handling top secret intelligence.
Trump had met with Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov and then-ambassador to the U.S. Sergei Kislyak.
A photographer employed by a Russian state-run news agency was allowed into the meeting, but no American journalists were permitted to witness it. Reports later described Trump seizing a U.S. translator’s notes to stop them from circulating inside his administration.
By Tuesday the spy saga had flipped around, with The New York Times and other media outlets correcting the timeline to show the CIA had hatched its plan to ‘exfiltrate’ the spy in 2016 – while Trump was running for office.
The U.S. government has not confirmed the identity of Smolenkov as the asset whose exfiltration was ordered by the CIA amid fears he would be exposed.
There were also concerns that Smolenkov, a twice-married aide to a senior former diplomat, may himself have been a double agent when he turned down the first request from the CIA to get out of Russia.
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