- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 12, 2019

Russia has reached out to Interpol in search of Oleg B. Smolenkov, a former Kremlin official who disappeared in 2017 and is now suspected of having spied for the CIA, a top Moscow official said Thursday.

Maria Zakharova, a spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry, said that the international law enforcement agency was asked whether it can confirm recent reports about Mr. Smolenkov having quietly relocated to northern Virginia.

“Two years later, the U.S. media churns out information that he is in the U.S.,” Ms. Zakharova said, Russian state media reported. “Naturally, such things need verification in accordance with the corresponding procedures and rules.”

“In this regard, Interpol was asked about the disappearance of a foreign citizen and his rumored presence in the United States,” Ms. Zakharova said, according to the outlets.

Missing since June 2017, interest in Mr. Smolenkov’s whereabouts renewed this week after multiple news reports said that the CIA relied for years on an unidentified Russian government official embedded in the Kremlin before extracting the informant around the same time as the former staffer’s disappearance.

Outlets operating under the Russian government’s control responded to the reports by naming the likely CIA mole as Mr. Smolenkov, a former member of President Vladimir Putin’s administration who had reportedly disappeared while vacationing with his wife in Montenegro more than two years ago.

Publicly available records show that a house was purchased in 2018 under the name of Mr. Smolenkov and his wife near D.C. in northern Virginia, and NBC News reported that journalists who tried visiting the address this week were promptly met by suspected U.S. agents monitoring the residence.

CNN first reported on the unidentified CIA mole’s extraction Monday, which the network said was driven in part by President Trump mishandling classified information. The New York Times corroborated elements of the reporting later Tuesday but said that media coverage was the main reasoning for the informant’s removal.

“Misguided speculation that the president’s handling of our nation’s most sensitive intelligence — which he has access to each and every day — drove an alleged exfiltration operation is inaccurate,” CIA director for public affairs Brittany Bramell told CNN this week.

White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said CNN’s reporting is “not only incorrect, it has the potential to put lives in danger,” the network reported Monday.

Mr. Smolenkov’s name was initially omitted from U.S. media reports but has since been published by outlets including The New York Times, The Washington Post and Reuters.

The Times reported that the extracted informant was instrumental in providing information that allowed the U.S. intelligence community to conclude that Mr. Putin ordered Russia to attack the 2016 U.S. presidential race.

No major outlets in the U.S. have confirmed that Mr. Smolenkov is the same spy in question, however.

Interpol told The Washington Times that the agency does not comment on specific cases or individuals except in special circumstances and with the approval of the member country concerned.

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