MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russia fired officials who allowed a former Kremlin employee and alleged CIA informant to flee the country, the Interfax news agency reported on Friday.
U.S. media reports, confirmed to Reuters by two sources, have said a CIA informant in the Russian government was extracted and brought to the United States in 2017.
Russian daily newspaper Kommersant has said that the official may have been a man called Oleg Smolenkov, who disappeared with his wife, Antonina, and three children while on holiday in Montenegro in June 2017. Kommersant showed a picture of a house it said was later bought by a family with the same names in Stafford, Virginia, 40 miles (65 km) from Washington.
The Kremlin has confirmed that Smolenkov worked in the Russian presidential administration, but said he was fired in 2016/17 and that he was not senior. A 2014 phone directory seen by Reuters lists him as chief adviser to Yuri Ushakov, President Vladimir Putin’s top foreign policy aide.
Russia said on Thursday it had asked the United States via Interpol to confirm Smolenkov’s whereabouts.
Interfax cited a source familiar with the situation on Friday as saying that Smolenkov’s family holiday in Montenegro flouted rules at the time that banned Russian officials from visiting the Balkan country.
“Soon after Smolenkov’s disappearance in June 2017, the relevant law enforcement agencies started an investigation which showed that the officials who allowed an employee of the presidential administration and his family to holiday in Montenegro had violated the (travel) ban,” the source was cited as saying.
The ban was introduced in the spring of that year due to heightened tensions between Russia and Montenegro over an alleged failed Moscow-backed coup in 2016, the same source said. Russia denied any involvement in the alleged coup.
“The actions of those responsible was categorised as reckless and lax control. Some of them (the officials) were punished, including being fired.”
Later, it became clear Smolenkov was a defector, the source told Interfax.
(Reporting by Andrew Osborn; Editing by Peter Graff)