When Ken Dilanian, a correspondent for NBC News, rings a bell at a house near Washington DC, nobody opens the door. He claims to speak there to the Russians, according to reports from CNN and "New York Times" for years, the US foreign intelligence service CIA supplied with information from the Kremlin. Until he was deducted two years ago.
Five minutes later, reports the reporter, two young men in an SUV race in, describe themselves as friends of the Russian and ask the journalist what he wants. "It was pretty clear they were US agents, alarmed by a stranger approaching the house."
In US media, the name of the Russian, who is said to have been a CIA agent and now apparently lives under the protection of the US authorities, is not named for security reasons, and his exact place of residence will not be published. In the Russian media, however, one is less restrained, there it is called Oleg S. and shows pictures of his wife and the house. Who is the man? What access did he have in the Kremlin and to whom? And how does Moscow react to the revelations of the US media?
What is known according to media reports
The US withdrew a top spy from Russia in 2017, first reported CNN on Monday. The US station relies on several sources in the US government, which, according to the broadcaster were directly involved in the decision. According to the report, following a meeting between US President Donald Trump and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and then-Russian Ambassador Sergei Kisljak in May, they decided to remove the agents from Russia and bring them to safety. The reason for this was apparently that Trump had passed on to the Russian chief diplomats top secret information about the terrorist militia "Islamic State" (IS).
At the time people were afraid that Trump might reveal other secrets to the Russians. In fact, only a few weeks later, at the G-20 meeting in Hamburg, he exchanged views with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Trump and Putin in July 2017 in Hamburg
According to the New York Times, the spy provided the US intelligence service with important information about Russia's influence in the US elections in 2016, including the fact that President Putin himself was involved. US media had repeatedly speculated why the intelligence agencies had such detailed information. This was only possible by sources directly in the Kremlin, it was said. Out of concern, the informant could be unmasked, he had therefore wanted to pull it off in 2016, writes the "New York Times". But S. did not want to leave Russia first, so Washington worried that it might be dealing with a double agent.
What did the alleged spy do?
According to CNN sources in the White House, the Russian worked more than ten years for the American secret service. He had operated in the Kremlin administration at a higher level, while also had contact with Putin, but not belonged to the closest circle of the President. Nevertheless, he was able to photograph documents on the desk of the Russian President. The New York Times calls the agent "a valuable source" that provided information from Moscow "for decades". As the man's career progressed they became more and more valuable.
The Russian newspaper "Kommersant" calls him, citing a US government source Oleg S. First, a Russian channel of the messenger service Telegram, which post usually insider information, published this name. The 50-year-old S. is according to Russian media reports civil servants, was initially working in interior, and later in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Moscow. He worked at the Russian Embassy in Washington from the mid-nineties, according to Kommersant as second secretary. At that time, Yury Ushakov was an ambassador, today he is a consultant to Putin for foreign policy in the Kremlin and accompanies the head of state in meetings with foreign politicians.
S. also worked for Ushakov's return to Moscow in 2008 for the high-ranking government official, according to information as a consultant in the presidential administration. What exactly he did there is unclear. In some media reports it is said that S. had taken care of organizational matters such as travel, meetings with delegations or purchases. The Kremlin-related newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda writes that S. had access to information, but not to "military strategic".
Where is the man today?
According to a report on the website "Daily Storm" S. already traveled in June 2017 with his wife, also a government official, and his three children to Montenegro on vacation, but they did not need a visa. There, the five disappeared without a trace. Today, the family lives according to Kommersant in that big house near Washington, according to media reports under their Russian common name, which is astonishing if it is true. Because in Moscow, one reacts mostly paranoid to spies who worked for the West. Even S., even if he is protected by the US authorities, should be in danger, as the recent poisoning attack on the former double agent Sergej Skripal in the UK showed.
How do Washington and Moscow react?
The White House and the CIA contradict the presentation of the US media. US President Trump says he knows nothing about the agent.
In Moscow, attempts to dismiss the reports as an invention, "Pulp Fiction" Kremlin spokesman Dimitrij Peskow called on Tuesday, the publications. The work of counterintelligence in Russia works, he stressed.
Peskov confirmed, however, that S. had worked in the Kremlin administration. However, he had no leading position and also no contact with Putin. S. was released two to three years ago. The reason for that did not call the speaker.