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Russia asked Interpol if Smolenkov is in US, says Foreign Ministry spokeswoman

Several years ago Smolenkov and his family went missing in a foreign country
Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova Gavriil Grigorov/TASS
Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova
© Gavriil Grigorov/TASS

MOSCOW, September 12. /TASS/. Russia has submitted a query to Interpol asking to confirm if a former Kremlin staffer, Oleg Smolenkov, is located in the United States following rumors in the press that he is allegedly a CIA agent, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told the media on Thursday.

Several years ago Smolenkov and his family went missing in a foreign country.

"Two years later, the US media churns out information that he is in the US. Naturally, such things need verification in accordance with the corresponding procedures and rules," Zakharova said. "In this regard, Interpol was asked about the disappearance of a foreign citizen and his rumored presence in the United States.

She described CNN’s news reports on this subject as classic propaganda.

"First, a certain task is set. Then the news content is selected and adjusted accordingly. What is the purpose? It is beyond doubt that domestic politics is involved. An election campaign has gotten underway in the United States. In this particular case, the television broadcaster was aiming at the current president but in reality hit the previous one by speculating that during the [Barack] Obama presidency, a CIA agent was already working in Russia. We do hope that CNN will probe into the details of this affair."

Zakharova pointed out CNN made no secret of its bias and its status as an instrument being used in America’s internal political standoff. "The network’s target audience is popular masses, not very familiar with foreign policy issues and for this reason very perceptive to such weird stories the broadcasters have obtained from ostensibly reliable sources," she said. "It might look a totally internal affair of the Americans what they wish to see on TV and how the information is presented to them. The real problem, though, is that the CNN is deliberately fanning Russophobic sentiment in the US, thus deliberately harming relations between our countries."

The diplomat also added that authors of the CNN publication on the extraction of alleged CIA agent Oleg Smolenkov from Russia did not address the Russian Foreign Ministry with a request for information.

"I would like to note that in the run-up to and after the publication, the CNN TV company did not address us with any questions, although the numerous press office in Moscow is functioning properly," the diplomat said.

Zakharova has expressed her surprise over the fact that no CNN representatives have attended the ministry’s press briefing. "It would seem that after the publication on a US special services informant, we should have seen the CNN correspondents who would later write another opus," she pointed out ironically. "However, as you can see, they are not here with us today."

Media claims

On Monday, CNN claimed that the US intelligence had evacuated an important agent from Russia in 2017, because there was a high risk that he could be exposed. CNN did not mention the name of the agent, whom it described as a fairly senior official in the Russian administration. According to The New York Times, the agent held a senior post and had access to the Kremlin at a high level. The CIA and the White House said the CNN’s information was inaccurate. Also, White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said CNN reporting was "inaccurate" and had "the potential to put lives in danger," without elaborating though.

Some media eventually quoted anonymous sources as saying the man in focus was Oleg Smolenkov, a former employee of the Russian presidential staff and a staffer of the Russian embassy in the United States. Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov on Tuesday confirmed that Smolenkov had been a presidential administration official but at a certain point was dismissed by an internal order.

Stance on US warrant to arrest Russian citizen in Italy

Meanwhile, Russia is considering the arrest of Russian citizen Alexander Korshunov, the JSC United Engine Corporation director of business development, carried out in Italy on the international warrant issued by the United States as a planned provocation, Maria Zakharova stated on Thursday.

"We believe that the US staged a planned provocation by issuing an international warrant to arrest Russian citizen Alexander Korshunov," she noted.

Zakharova pointed out that Korshunov is the 48th Russian citizen whose arrest in third countries was instigated by the US. "Washington has been evading normal and civilized dialogue with Russia through law enforcement agencies for years now, a true hunt for Russians was declared," she underlined.

According to the spokeswoman, the US actions are politically motivated to pressure Russia and its citizens, undermine business ties and tourist exchanges. "Nevertheless, we are hoping that the Italian court will be able to objectively address the situation and deliver a relevant decision undeterred by political pressure," she added.

The court will convene for a hearing to consider a motion to release Korshunov from custody in Naples on September 19.

Alexander Korshunov, the JSC United Engine Corporation director of business development, was arrested on August 30 at Naples airport on an international warrant issued by the United States. The American authorities accuse him of conspiring and attempting to steal commercial secrets from an American aviation company. Italian citizen Maurizio Paolo Bianchi is also facing charges pressed against him but there has been no reports about him yet. Korshunov is being held in custody in a Naples correctional facility, and he is receiving full consular assistance.