September 10, 2019. RT: A former official identified in media reports as a CIA asset in Russia worked in the presidential administration but never had access to Vladimir Putin, the Kremlin has claimed, adding that the man was fired several years ago.
US media reported on Monday that US intelligence carried out an operation in 2017 to extract a high-level Russian official who had worked as an informant for the CIA.
The incendiary claim has triggered a race to identify the alleged spy. Kommersant, a Russian daily, reported on Tuesday that the official may have been a man named Oleg Smolenkov.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov confirmed that Smolenkov worked in the government, but said he did not hold a senior position and was fired in 2016 or 2017.
“Indeed, Smolenkov used to work in the presidential administration, but was fired several years ago,” Peskov said. He added that the alleged spy was not a high-ranking official personally appointed by Putin.
He said that the Kremlin was unaware of Smolenkov’s whereabouts, and that the government could only confirm that a man by that name once worked for the administration but was later laid off.
Peskov was openly critical of the US media’s faith in the evidence-deficient story, describing their breathless reports as resembling something more suitable for Hollywood.
All this speculation in the US media about who urgently extracted who and who saved who from who, that’s all, as you understand, more of a pulp fiction kind of genre.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov also weighed in on the sensational story, stating that he had never met Smolenkov or followed his career or movements. Western media reports portray the alleged mole as a senior official who enjoyed direct access to Putin.
Earlier, both the White House and the CIA denied the media reports.
The CNN exclusive claims that the CIA asset was secretly ferried out of Russia amid fears that his identity could be compromised by US President Donald Trump’s alleged chummy relationship with Moscow. Some have speculated that the story was manufactured to smear the American president.