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Foreign Ministry spokeswoman confirms Smolenkov worked at Russian embassy in US

The diplomat underscored that CNN failed to contact Russia when working on the Smolenkov article
Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova Gavriil Grigorov/TASS
Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova
© Gavriil Grigorov/TASS

MOSCOW, September 16. /TASS/. Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told the Telegram channel Rasstriga during an interview that the former employee of the Russian presidential staff, Oleg Smolenkov, whom the media has suspected of being a CIA agent, had worked for some time at the Russian embassy in Washington.

"He worked at our embassy in Washington for a certain period in his career. There is nothing for me to comment on. He was in charge of administrative matters," she said.

Zakharova recalled that Russia had already made an official query through law enforcement agencies.

"I can also say that when CNN was working on this story [about Smolenkov], it did not contact us. This looks strange. Usually, they ask us for a comment when these matters are in the spotlight," Zakharova pointed out.

She described CNN’s story about Smolenkov as "an element of shaping the preferences of its own audience."

"Regrettably, the mass media in the United States has been split along domestic policy lines. There’ve already been friend-or-foe roll-call depending on preferences," Zakharova explained. "Many internal political events in the United States have aroused a wave of questions addressed to the Russian side. I believe that the timing is not accidental. The election campaign race has already begun. There are candidates who are being listed as promising or possible ones in the context of the forthcoming presidential election in the US in 2020."

Smolenkov affair

Last week, CNN claimed that US intelligence had evacuated a key agent from Russia in 2017, because there was a high risk that the individual in question could have been exposed. CNN did not reveal the name of the agent, whom it described as a fairly senior official in the Russian administration. According to The New York Times, the alleged agent held a senior post and had high-level access to the Kremlin. The CIA and the White House said CNN’s information was inaccurate. Also, White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham said that CNN’s reporting was "inaccurate" and had "the potential to put lives in danger," without elaborating, though.

Some media outlets eventually quoted anonymous sources as saying the man in focus was someone named Oleg Smolenkov. Russian Presidential Spokesman Dmitry Peskov confirmed last week that Smolenkov had been an employee of the presidential staff but at a certain point was dismissed under an internal order.