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Official CIA representatives in Russia have diplomatic status, former FSB chief says

March 28, 16:12 UTC+3 MOSCOW

Earlier, US Ambassador to Russia Jon Huntsman said that 60 Russian diplomats were expelled from the US due to the need to protect Americans from espionage

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© EPA-EFE/Olivier Douliery/POOL

MOSCOW, March 28. /TASS/. Official representatives of the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in Russia are working for the Embassy and have a diplomatic status, Russian MP and former head of the Federal Security Service Nikolai Kovalev told TASS.

Earlier, a number of countries claimed that some of the Russian diplomats being expelled were secret service officers. The chief of Russia’s foreign intelligence service SVR, Sergey Naryshkin, confirmed that to a number of mass media, adding that the officers in question worked abroad quite officially.

"Certainly [official CIA representatives have a diplomatic status]," said Kovalev, who is a member of the State Duma (lower house) committee for security and countering corruption.

"They are working as diplomats, they introduce themselves officially, this is common practice of both sides," he noted.

Earlier, US Ambassador to Russia Jon Huntsman said in an interview with TASS that 60 Russian diplomats were expelled from the US due to the need to protect Americans from espionage. A large number of Russian intelligence officers were working in the US and Canada, he said.

Joint operations 

Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service and the CIA have many times carried out joint operations coordinated by their official representatives, Kovalev has pointed out. 

A number of countries said earlier that there were intelligence officers among expelled Russian diplomats. SVR head Sergei Naryshkin confirmed the fact to the media, pointing out that the officers had official status.

According to Kovalev, in the late 1990s, he was appointed to lead one of such operations from Russia’s side. "The United States was represented by someone whom we knew to be a CIA official, he had diplomatic status," the Russian lawmaker noted. "As a result, we managed to prevent the Camorra (the Neapolitan crime syndicate) from distributing ten millions of counterfeit dollars in Russia," he added.

"The Americans were very grateful to us for cooperation because had those plans been implemented, it would have been a serious blow to our country’s economic security of, but it would have damaged America in the first place," Kovalev said, adding that "there are numerous examples of cooperation."

As for Great Britain, in Kovalev’s words, joint operations were carried out with the Metropolitan Police Service, "in order to prevent the smuggling of large amounts of valuables and money." "Cooperation involved the Russian Interior Ministry and the FSB, but official representatives [of intelligence services] arranged everything," the former FSB chief said. "And now, look what kind of decisions are made based on groundless allegations and emotions - it damages, first and foremost, the country that makes them," he concluded.

Skripal incident and expulsion of diplomats

A number of EU member countries, the United States, Canada and Australia earlier announced the expulsion of Russian diplomats over the poisoning of former Russian military intelligence (GRU) officer Sergei Skripal, which the UK blames on Moscow without providing any evidence. In particular, Washington expelled 60 Russian diplomats, including 48 embassy staff and 12 members of Russia’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations. In addition, the US authorities decided to close Russia’s consulate in Seattle.

The Russian Foreign Ministry stated that those unfriendly actions would not remain unanswered.

On March 4, Skripal and his daughter Yulia suffered the effects of a nerve agent in the British city of Salisbury. British Prime Minister Theresa May said the substance used in the attack had been a Novichok-class nerve agent developed in the Soviet Union. London expelled 23 Russian diplomats. Moscow rejected all of the United Kingdom’s accusations, saying that a program aimed at developing such a substance had existed neither in the Soviet Union nor in Russia. In retaliation to the UK’s steps, 23 British diplomats were expelled, the British consulate general in the city of St. Petersburg was closed and the British Council had to shut down its operations in Russia. At the same time, Moscow pointed out that further measures could be taken "should there be any more hostile actions against Russia.".

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