Washington, September 10
US agents extracted a high-level Russian government source who had confirmed Vladimir Putin’s direct role in interfering in the 2016 presidential election, American media reported.
The individual had been providing information to US intelligence for decades, had access to Putin and had sent pictures of high-level documents on the Russian leader’s desk, CNN said. But the spy was pulled out of Russia, both CNN and the New York Times reported.
The Times reported that the CIA initially offered to extract the source in late 2016 over fears about media exposure, after officials revealed the severity of Russia’s poll interference in detail. The informant initially refused — citing family issues and prompting fears the individual had become a double agent, it said. Months later, the agent relented as media inquiries about a mole continued.
CNN, citing an unnamed person it said was involved in discussions on the asset, said the 2017 extraction was over concerns that Trump and his cabinet could expose the agent after repeated mishandling of classified intelligence. The CIA denied this charge. The network cited the intelligence community’s particular concern after Trump confiscated a translator’s notes following a 2017 private meeting with Putin. According to the Times, the agent was the CIA’s most valuable Russian asset. — AFP
Was fired years ago, says Russia
- The Kremlin on Tuesday played down reports of a CIA spy inside Russia’s presidential administration, calling them ‘pulp fiction’ but said a low-level official who Russian media suggested was the agent had worked there before being fired
- Russian daily Kommersant said the official may have been Oleg Smolenkov, who have disappeared with his wife and children while on holiday in Montenegro in 2017 and is now reported to be living in the US
- Kremlin spokesman said Smolenkov had worked in the Russian presidential administration but had been fired in 2016-17. “He did not have direct access to President Putin.”
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