Russia’s foreign ministry on Thursday asked Interpol, the international policing agency, for help to find a Russian government official rumored to be a CIA mole.
The Russian government issued the request regarding Oleg Smolenkov, a mid-tier Kremlin official who Russian media has speculated is a longtime CIA informant that the agency reportedly exfiltrated in 2017.
Smolenkov, 50, reportedly went missing in June 2017 while vacationing in Montenegro with his family. But he was found this week living under his true name in Stafford, Virginia, just outside of Washington, D.C.
The Kremlin has downplayed Smolenkov’s position in the Russian government, saying that he was fired several years ago and did not have access to Russian President Vladimir Putin. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said he did not know whether Smolenkov worked for the CIA.
The Interpol request suggests that Kremlin officials are more concerned with Smolenkov’s disappearance than they’ve let on in public.
“A citizen of Russia disappeared on the territory of a foreign state along with his family,” Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said Thursday, according to The Guardian.
“Interpol was presented with questions regarding the disappearance of a foreign citizen and his presence on the territory of the United States.”
The New York Times reported on Monday that the CIA extracted a longtime Kremlin spy in 2017 amid fears that he would be exposed by the media. The report said that the spy provided intelligence that ended up in the U.S. intelligence community’s assessment of Russian meddling in the 2016 election. According to The Times, the CIA operation that involved the mole was cited in an NBC News report published on Dec. 14, 2016 that claimed that Putin directed the Russian hacking operation.
According to the Times and other news outlets, the CIA recruited the mole decades ago, and has cultivated him as a source as he rose up through the government ranks in Russia.
Smolenkov was a longtime aide to Yuri Ushakov, who served as Russia’s ambassador to the U.S. through 2008. Ushakov currently serves as Putin’s top adviser on international affairs.
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