Allegations that a suspected CIA mole discovered that Vladimir Putin had spearheaded efforts to meddle in the 2016 US election are lies and slander, Russia has said.
US media reports have said the spy had access to the Russian president and could even get images of documents on the Russian leader’s desk.
Named by Russian media as Oleg Smolenkov, he provided information for more than a decade, according to CNN.
The New York Times said he was instrumental in the CIA’s conclusion that Mr Putin not only ordered and orchestrated a campaign of election meddling, but that he favoured Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton.
He is said to have been withdrawn in 2017 following concerns that Mr Trump was being open with classified intelligence, CNN said.
The decision to extract him was apparently taken after a meeting at the White House in May 2017, in which the US president allegedly discussed sensitive information with Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov and the then Russian Ambassador to the US, Sergey Kislyak.
The following month, Mr Smolenkov is reported to have disappeared with his wife Antonina and three children while on holiday in Montenegro.
Russia’s deputy foreign minister, Sergei Ryabkov, said Mr Smolenkov “could not have had any role in so-called election meddling because there was no meddling”.
He added: “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.”
Russia has admitted, however, that Mr Smolenkov was on the payroll.
“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,” said Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov.
“This is a question for the intelligence services – they are doing their job.”
The Kremlin added that Mr Smolenkov was not a high-level official and did not have access to Mr Putin.
The Reuters news agency quoted two sources as saying a CIA informant in the Russian government had been extracted and taken to the US in 2017.
There is a house listed as owned by a man called Oleg Smolenkov in Stafford, near Washington, Russian news agency RIA said.
It is in an area where many former US military and FBI personnel are said to live.
RIA said that when it visited the house, the curtains were drawn, there was no sign of activity inside and no one answered the door.
Neighbour Greg Tally said the property’s residents had Russian accents and left abruptly after a reporter turned up.
Source: SKY NEWS