Russia calls suggestion suspected CIA mole unmasked election meddling slander
MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia condemned as lies and slander on Wednesday suggestions a suspected CIA mole in the presidential administration had handed over information to the United States about alleged Russian meddling in the U.S. presidential elections.
Deputy Foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov made the comment after U.S. media reports, confirmed to Reuters by two sources, that a CIA informant in the Russian government had been extracted and brought to the United States in 2017.
U.S. intelligence agencies have said Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election campaign in order to tilt the vote in U.S. President Donald Trump's favor. Moscow has denied any interference.
CNN cited U.S. officials saying the informant had provided information that helped establish that Russian President Vladimir Putin had directed Russian interference into the election to favor Trump.
"He couldn't have had any role in so-called (election) meddling because there was no meddling," Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov was quoted as saying by Interfax news agency.
"And what is happening in terms of such interpretations is just the piling up of one lie on top of another and the multiplication of slander about us," he said.
The Kremlin said on Wednesday it did not know if one of its former employees had been a CIA informant, but that Russia's intelligence services were working on the case.
Russian daily newspaper Kommersant has said that the official may have been a man called Oleg Smolenkov. He is reported to have disappeared with his wife, Antonina, and three children while on holiday in Montenegro in June 2017.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Wednesday: "I can only state that this employee existed, that he was fired, and that we don't know whether he was a spy or not. This is a question for the intelligence services - they are doing their job."
The two sources who confirmed the extraction to Reuters on Tuesday indicated that U.S. officials were seriously concerned that Kremlin officials had made public what they said was the individual's name.
On Wednesday, Vedomosti cited an unnamed source close to the security services saying Smolenkov had latterly worked for at least five years as a top aide to Kremlin adviser Yuri Ushakov and that he had access to "very sensitive information, including intelligence information".
The Kremlin has said that Smolenkov was not a high-level official and did not have access to President Vladimir Putin.
Russian state news agency RIA said it had visited a house listed as owned by a man named Oleg Smolenkov in Stafford, near Washington, an area where it said many former U.S. military and FBI personnel live.
It said the curtains of the house were drawn, that there was no sign of any activity inside and that no one answered the door.
One of the neighbors, a man named Greg Tally, said the house's residents had Russian accents and that they had left the property abruptly after a reporter turned up in the area, RIA said.
(Reporting by Andrew Osborn, Tom Balmforth and Maria Kiselyova; writing by Tom Balmforth; editing by Philippa Fletcher)
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