Kremlin spy from Ivanovo: will Oleg Smolenkov’s escape be a lesson to Russian elite? 

Kremlin spy from Ivanovo: will Oleg Smolenkov’s escape be a lesson to Russian elite?
Photo: The CrimeRussia

The intel scandal involving Oleg Smolenkov, who had access to the Kremlin and possessed valuable information, has become a widely discussed topic. It was CNN who reported, citing sources in the CIA and Donald Trump administration, on the “informant” being evacuated from Russia in 2017. It turned out that for certain people in Russia, the spy’s disappearance was not a secret, while the Russian elite denied the fact of espionage in unison with the American one. The Smolenkov family was forced to leave their luxurious mansion in Virginia, and their current whereabouts are unknown. Smolenkov’s “patron,” Assistant to the President of the Russian Federation for the International Sector Yury Ushakov, continues to fulfill his duties. The CrimeRussia looked into the story of “exfiltration” of the top informant and the possible consequences of his work as an intelligencer.

Who is he, the spy from Ivanovo?

Thus, according to The New York Times, the CIA allegedly offered Smolenkov – “one of the most valuable sources of information,” who knew “the Kremlin’s inner workings” and President Putin’s plans – to urgently leave Russia with his family, fearing exposure. His absence in the Russian Federation became tangible already in 2018, when US intelligence agencies “tried to neutralize Russian operations during the midterm elections to Congress.”

The decision to “exfiltrate” Oleg Smolenkov from Russia was allegedly taken immediately after the meeting of Donald Trump with Sergey Lavrov at the White House on May 10, 2017, during which the American president decided to reveal some secret information to Russia. Based on the information available at this stage, we get approximately the following scenario: The CIA recruited the agent at the embassy in Washington, assigning him the task of getting a job at the Russian Presidential Administration; Smolenkov succeeded at his task, working for American intelligence agencies for a long period; at some point, something went wrong, and the agent had to be evacuated; someone from the CIA leaked information about him to CNN, which endangered the life of the US agent despite the fact that, as it turned out, information about Smolenkov had previously been published in Russian media.

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The Daily Storm reported about the disappearance of the Smolenkov family back in September 2017

What is known about Oleg Borisovich Smolenkov, born in 1969 in Ivanovo? In the late 1990s and early 2000s, he worked at the monetary and financial department and the Central Office of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In the mid-2000s, he was the second secretary at the Russian Embassy in Washington, while the present Assistant to the President of the Russian Federation for International Affairs, Yury Ushakov, was the ambassador.

“At the Embassy, Smolenkov was engaged in a number of economic issues, in particular, the purchase of official vehicles and the procurement of goods for the embassy store and for protocol needs,” Smolenkov’s former colleague at the diplomatic mission said.

In 2008, Oleg Smolenkov returned to Moscow, where on February 4, 2010, by decree of then-Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, he was awarded the rank of Acting State Advisor of the Russian Federation of the 3rd class, which corresponds to the military rank of Major General. Back then, Smolenkov was the chief adviser at the Government Office.

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The only picture of Oleg Smolenkov

In addition, according to sources, Smolenkov had the status of chief adviser in the office of the Assistant to the President of the Russian Federation for International Affairs, Yury Ushakov, for at least five years, and also worked in the Office for Foreign Policy of Putin’s administration up until his departure from Russia.

Some sources report that, under the patronage of Yury Ushakov, Smolenkov was also a referent for the Military-Industrial Commission of the Russian Federation, which means that he had access to documents relating to the activities of the Russian defense industry.

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Yury Ushakov, assistant to the President of the Russian Federation

On June 14, 2017, Oleg Smolenkov went on vacation to Montenegro with his wife and three children, after which their traces were lost. It became known that on September 6, 2017, after a pre-investigation check, one of the ICR directorates in Moscow opened a criminal case under Murder (Art. 105 of the Russian Criminal Code). According to a number of sources, the investigation into the murder of Oleg Smolenkov and his family members was suspended several times and then resumed again. Thus, with a little help from FSB officers, investigators found out that the Smolenkovs were in another country, alive.

Smolenkov's family hearth

The wife of the fugitive spy, Antonina Vladimirovna Smolenkova, was born in Moscow on April 7, 1984. In 2010, she graduated from the Moscow Regional Institute of Management and Law with a degree in Organization Management, and, as of 2009, worked in the Department for Presidential Affairs of the Russian Federation. In addition, some sources say Antonina Smolenkova was an employee of the Government Office. Antonina’s mother is an honored dentist, who has been working in the departmental clinic of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for over 25 years, and her father is a retired ex-policeman. The names of her parents are not reported.

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Antonina Smolenkova’s picture from social networks profile

It is known that Oleg Smolenkov grew up without a father. He was brought up by his mother, Valentina Nikolaevna Smolenkova, an ex-employee of the public health department of the Northern administrative district of Moscow. They jointly owned a 1-room apartment on Zoya and Aleksandr Kosmodemyanskikh Street in Moscow. Oleg Smolenkov married Antonina in 2006. Before that, she was already married to Evgeny Agafonov and had a son (Ivan) from the first marriage.

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Ivan Agafonov, Oleg Smolenkov's adoptive son

After the wedding, the Smolenkovs moved to Antonina’s 2-room apartment located on Kargopolskaya Street in Moscow, where they had two daughters born several years apart (at the time of the “evacuation,” they were 7 and 2).

Evgeny Agafonov, Antonina’s first husband, claims that she allegedly abducted their son in 2009, prevented him from meeting his father, and tried to deprive the latter of his parental rights. According to Evgeny Agafonov, in 2017, Antonina Smolenkova “tricked him into agreeing to let his son leave for Montenegro for vacation without changing the country of residence for a period of two months and then took the child to the USA, where they are still hiding.”

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Antonina Smolenkova's first husband, Evgeny Agafonov (source – RTVi)

According to Evgeny Agafonov, the last time he talked with his son Ivan (who was 13-year-old at the time) by phone was on June 8, 2017. After the expiry of the child travel consent, in August 2017, Agafonov applied to law enforcement authorities with a statement about the non-return of his son from abroad. A criminal case was initiated, the investigation into which is still ongoing. Until today, Agafonov Sr. did not have any information about the whereabouts of his son.

By the way, there is a curious message on Ivan Agafonov’s page on social networks – whether he has died.

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Comment on Ivan Agafonov's page, September 18, 2017: "Did he die?"

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Picture from Ivan Agafonov’s page

According to available information, in 2018, a year after the disappearance of the Smolenkov family, the apartment on Zoya and Aleksandr Kosmodemyanskikh Street passed into the ownership of Antonina Smolenkova's mother and the spy's mother-in-law. At the same time, Oleg Smolenkov’s sick helpless mother, Valentina Nikolaevna, currently resides at the place. She is being looked after by a nurse named Valentina, who allegedly arrived from Ukraine. According to the nurse, her ward is bedridden; she often screams and is unstable. At the same time, the nurse says that the sick old woman has no relatives and there is no one to look after her.

Apparently, the services provided by the nurse caring for the mother abandoned by Oleg Smolenkov are paid by his wife Antonina’s mother.

“American nest” worth $1 million

In June 2018, information appeared in the section of real estate sale on the Washington Post website about the purchase of a house in Stafford, Virginia, worth about $925 thousand by Oleg and Antonina Smolenkov. The property management contract in the name of Oleg and Antonina Smolenkov was drawn up on January 28, 2019. The mansion, located on a 1.2-hectare plot, has 6 bedrooms and 6 bathrooms, a home cinema, a gym, and an outdoor jacuzzi in the courtyard.

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Picture of the Smolenkov’s mansion from the site of a local real estate agency

According to their neighbor Greg Tully, the Smolenkov family hastily left their mansion in Stafford in the wake of the spy scandal, as journalists began to pay them visits. “Our Russian neighbors saw a journalist, walked into the house, and after 15 seconds left in two cars; that’s all,” the American noted. 

“On September 10, a man knocked on my door. He introduced himself as The Daily Beast journalist and started asking questions about my Russian neighbors. Then he went to another see another neighbor, scaring her. She called me afterwards, saying that someone was asking her about our neighbors. I told her that I had just seen the man, it was a journalist. She and her husband talked to him,” Greg Tully told RIA Novosti.

According to NBC News, as soon as the journalists of their TV channel arrived at the Smolenkov’s house, several SUVs parked nearby; some young people got out of the cars and asked the TV crew about the purpose of their arrival. NBC News representatives think it was agents guarding the Smolenkovs. Obviously, the Smolenkov family, who are under the cover of the American intelligence services, are in a safe place in the United States, and they are unlikely to ever return to their mansion, the location of which was made public.

Reaction in Russia and the United States

The fact that shortly after the Smolenkov family disappeared, competent authorities in the Russian Federation began a check, which showed that the officials who allowed the presidential administration employee and his family to travel to Montenegro violated the ban on civil servants from traveling to this Balkan country at that time, was reported only now.

“The actions of officials were qualified as irresponsibility and relaxation of control; some of them were punished up to being dismissed,” a competent source said.

However, other sources claim that the departure of Smolenkov, who had a 2nd level of access to state secrets that allows foreign travel, was nevertheless agreed with the 1st department, and the political component played its role.

It is known that in October 2016, the Montenegrin authorities accused Russia of involvement in an attempted coup; at the time, Secretary of the Security Council Nikolay Patrushev urgently visited the Balkans in order to resolve the situation. The thaw in diplomatic relations between Russia and Montenegro occurred through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs with the participation of the US Embassy in Montenegro, and this “bridge of friendship” was established by Oleg Smolenkov, a number of sources say. That is why his “family vacation” in Montenegro in 2017 was agreed as a business trip and did not cause any comments, in particular, because upon arrival in this country, he gave the appearance of active work, organizing a series of meetings between the diplomats from Russia, Montenegro, and the US, after which he disappeared.

In any case, for a certain circle of people, the escape of Smolenkov during the unfolding “September scandal” in 2017 is not news.

And here is how the Kremlin elite reacted to the scandal.

“Indeed, Smolenkov worked at the Russian Presidential Administration, but was dismissed by an internal order a few years ago. He was not a senior official, but held one of the so-called directive positions. All these discussions of the American media about who secretly exported whom, who saved whom from whom – they kind of remind me of pulp fiction; so let’s just leave it to them,” President's Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov said.

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Dmitry Peskov and Smolenkov’s boss, Yury Ushakov

“It’s hard to comment on the part about the ‘very valuable agent.’ It is for the CIA to confirm or refute. As for the meeting between Lavrov and Trump, even CNN couldn’t come up with such nonsense. It’s unalloyed paranoia,” the Ministry of Foreign Affairs representatives told media.

“I've never seen or met him. I don’t want to comment on rumors,” Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation Sergey Lavrov stressed.

“Russia asked Interpol whether Oleg Smolenkov was in the US,” Ministry of Foreign Affairs Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said.

Later, she added the following: “He worked at our embassy in Washington for some time. I have nothing else to say here. I didn’t know him personally, we never met. The only thing I know from the ‘personal assessments of colleagues’ is that he was engaged in economic issues.”

“Smolenkov was not an employee of the Department for Presidential Affairs of the Russian Federation,” Press Secretary of the Department, Elena Krylova, noted.

“No comment,” Yury Ushakov, assistant to the President of the Russian Federation, so answered the question whether he knew Smolenkov. By the way, Ushakov still has direct access to Putin and, apparently, Smolenkov’s exposure did not affect his positions; he continues to be an important link in the international contacts of the Russian president.

It should be stressed that in the US, they are echoing Russian official commentators. For example, the CIA called the information provided by CNN “erroneous:”

“The assumptions that the president’s interaction with intelligence led to the exfiltration of the agent are erroneous,” CIA Director for Public Relations, Brittany Bramell, said. 

“No, I know nothing about it. I see the CIA has already commented on it. So I agree completely with what the CIA said, I heard its reply. I know nothing!” US President Donald Trump said. 

CNN's message is not just erroneous, it potentially endangers people's lives,” White House Spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham stressed.

At the same time, CNN say they have additional information about the informant evacuated from Russia, but do not disclose it in order not to harm Oleg Smolenkov. You must admit, it is a strange concern on the part of those who exposed the “top-secret” spy to the world. This resonance has done enough damage to him already.

“I got some business to do in Paris, it’s an emergency!”

How could a spy scandal do without versions, conspiracy theories, political philosophy, and such? For example, Aleksandr Dyukov, an expert at the Institute of Russian History of the Russian Academy of Sciences, believes that after the high-profile arrests of senior FSB officers in 2016, Oleg Smolenkov decided to ensure his safety, and after meeting with Sergey Lavrov and Donald Trump in May 2017, he requested an urgent evacuation. The CIA believed Smolenkov, who made it look like failure.

“As a result, Smolenkov retired in Virginia, and the CIA was confident that Trump was working for Russians. Donald Trump said that he “did not know anything” and called the accusations against him a “speculation.” In turn, the CIA did not deny Smolenkov’s evacuation, but called the assumption that the decision was made because of fears that Trump would expose the informant a conjecture,” Dyukov believes.

“Oleg Smolenkov’s case boils down to one question: why now? After all, the Americans did not expose their spy’s name. Apparently, our special services knew who it was and understood where Smolenkov had gone, but they only shared information with a very limited group of high-ranking people. They had no desire to stand in the light against the unfolding hacker scandal. It was anonymous Telegram channels who exposed Smolenkov, not even concealing that it was but a leak, and it was unlikely that the FSB had fed this information (after all, security officers kept it secret for two years). The only possible option was the Office of the President; one of those people, who had direct contact with Smolenkov. Yury Ushakov, assistant to the Russian President, whose confidant was the fugitive, borne the brunt. And no matter for how long Peskov clowned around, telling that nothing important has happened, since “this position does not provide for any contacts with the president,” any fool can see that it is not a matter of what position Smolenkov himself holds; it is that of his patron Ushakov. The same Ushakov, who helped the American spy advance in his career to reach the top public official. We may be speculating here, but it is obvious that one of Ushakov’s colleagues (who evidently had immunity from Putin) took advantage of the consequences of the intra-American political conflict to withdraw Ushakov from the game, the Telegram channel Futlyar ot Violoncheli notes.

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Yury Ushakov is a close associate of Putin

In general, the situation with the security regime and the departure of persons with access to classified (and sometimes secret) information is rather complicated. Ex-Head of the banking department of the FSB Department ‘K’ Dmitry Frolov, of whom the CrimeRussia wrote about many times, had already lived in Italy before his arrest, from where he was lured on the pretext of discussing the fate of his “ward” Aleksey Khotin and Yugra Bank assets. After the arrest of the abovemention Frolov and the death of banker Vladimir Kogan, ex-Head of the FSB Department ‘K’ Viktor Voronin left for Israel, from where he returned only after receiving a guarantee of immunity. Ex-MIA officer Valentin Gonastarev, permanently residing in the US, could not be detained for more than a month. In July this year, the Lefortovo Court of Moscow arrested Assistant to the Presidential Envoy in the Urals Federal District Nikolay Tsukanov, Aleksandr Vorobyov, who was suspected of Treason under Art. 275 of the Russian Criminal Code. A passport of a citizen of Poland and special recording equipment was seized from Vorobyov; his two apartments in Warsaw and a country house in Gdansk were also exposed. And these are just recent examples; all of the above men had access to documents and information of interest to Western intelligence agencies.

By the way, in connection with the sensational espionage scandal involving Smolenkov, the frequent trips of ex-Adviser to Head of the Rosreestr Viktoria Abramchenko, Parviz Tukhtasunov, who received a portfolio of the head of the Russian Cadastral Chamber from Minister of Economic Development of the Russian Federation Maksim Oreshkin in November 2018, are quite curious.

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Director of the Federal Cadastral Chamber of Rosreestr Parviz Tukhtasunov has a medical background

Tukhtasunov’s frequent trips (sometimes lasting just a couple of hours) raise logical questions: whom did the official visit and why, on whose instructions, and what did he receive or bring?

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Parviz Tukhtasunov’s frequent foreign travel causes questions

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