Russia confirms alleged US spy worked in Kremlin | News | DW | 10.09.2019
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Russia confirms alleged US spy worked in Kremlin

Moscow downplayed US media reports that said the CIA spy had access to Vladimir Putin and was extracted in 2017 over concerns of media exposure.

The Kremlin on Tuesday confirmed that an alleged US spy had worked in Russia's presidential administration.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that the person did not have direct access to President Vladimir Putin and that he was a low-level official "fired several years ago," TASS news agency reported.

"His job was not classified as a senior position," Peskov said, adding that he had no information about whether the person had been working for the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

Peskov's remarks come in the wake of reports by US broadcaster CNN and  The New York Times newspaper that said the spy was extracted from Russia in 2017 over concerns for his safety.

The Kremlin spokesman played down the reports that the man had been extracted.

"All these speculations in US media outlets about urgently extracting him, from whom he was saved and so on — this, you know, is a kind of a 'Pulp Fiction,'" said Peskov.

Both the Times and CNN said the CIA asset had been embedded in Russia's government for years and had reached the higher echelons within the Kremlin.

According to the New York Times, the spy's proximity to Putin made him one of the CIA's most valuable Russian assets.

He allegedly delivered evidence to US intelligence of Putin's directive to interfere in the 2016 elections in favor of Trump and against Democratic rival Hillary Clinton, the Times said.

Exposure and extraction

The CIA reportedly tried to extract the asset in 2016, after extensive details of Russia's election interference were released, leading to increased media exposure and rumors of a mole within the Kremlin.

The asset is said to have refused the offer. But the agency approached him again in 2017 and this time he agreed.

Citing White House and intelligence community sources, CNN claimed that concerns over Trump and his Cabinet's mishandling of classified information contributed to the decision to pull the spy.

In particular, the intelligence community was reportedly concerned after Trump confiscated a translator's notes from a private meeting with Putin in 2017, CNN said.

White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham blasted the network for the claim. "CNN's reporting is not only incorrect, it has the potential to put lives in danger," she said.

The CIA has also denied the reports. "Misguided speculation that the president's handling of our nation's most sensitive intelligence — which he has access to each and every day — drove an alleged exfiltration operation is inaccurate," said Director of Public Affairs Brittany Bramell.

jcg/stb (AFP, AP, Reuters)

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