The Kremlin paints a target on the back of a former insider who was reportedly an important CIA source before the agency "exfiltrated" him from Russia to the United States in July 2017.
On Tuesday, the Russian daily Kommersant published the name and biography of a man who lived under his own name with his wife and children near Washington, DC. In the process, the magazine may have opened the door to a number of potential killers, not all of whom can be traced directly to the Kremlin.
As an ethical issue, The Daily Beast has decided not to publish the name or address of the alleged spy. But it took our reporters just a few clicks on Google to find out where he lived, in a million-dollar house. Given the threat posed by Russian President Vladimir Putin's vengeful and murderous regime, the home seems to be closely guarded (judging by the convergence of cars when The Daily Beast appeared), but security seems, to say the least, weak. [1
Maybe he's not that important or really that spy. Maybe there was another Deep Throat extracted from the Kremlin. But the profiles seem to fit.
Another likely possibility is that over the years the CIA has believed that Russian intelligence services would not dare to carry out what is known in the trade as "wet works" or murders on American soil.
But times have changed. Donald Trump, the US president, was elected with the help of Russian operators and has been an excuse for Putin for several years, often taking his side publicly and preferring to deal with him privately, without witnesses.
At the same time, Putin's military intelligence ministers (GRU) and FSB and SVR (successor to the infamous KGB) have been involved in several murders and attempted assassinations, best known is the assassination of former FSB operative Alexander Litvinenko in London 2006, which was poisoned with the rare radioactive isotope polonium-210. Last year, in Salisbury, England, the arcane chemical agent novichok was used to try to kill former GRU operative (and spy for MI6) Sergei Skripal. Skripal and his adult daughter both survived, but a passerby died after picking up the perfume bottle Nina Ricci where the killers had transported the chemical.
Of course, the Kremlin has always known about the alleged jumping off of the alleged CIA asset, and the article by Kommersant that mentioned him may have posed a not so bad threat. Much of it is tactically based on secondary sources – channels on the encrypted chat app App Telegram and a website called Daily Storm. But there it is:
"According to commercial sources in the Russian Federation's power structures, a criminal case on the murder of [figure named in the article] and his family members (Article 105 of the Criminal Code) was established by one of the Moscow ICR Directorate after a corresponding preliminary investigation. The investigation was interrupted and resumed several times. But in the end, investigators and FSB officials found that the alleged victims were alive and in another country. "
How Putinesque investigates the murder of a nefarious spy before he was killed.
The non-dead spy was in any case a very valuable CIA asset. According to a source for CNN, which first broke the story, "there was" no similar alternative "inside the Russian government, providing both insight and information about Putin."
From the late 1990s, the man Kommersant worked in the Russian Foreign Ministry's monetary and financial department and later transferred to the Ministry's second European department under Alexander Udaltsov (currently the Russian ambassador to Lithuania). In the mid-2000s, he served as second secretary at the Russian Embassy in Washington. At that time, Yury Ushakov, the current assistant to the Russian president for international affairs, was Russia's ambassador to the United States.
According to Kommersant the man in question continued to work directly under Ushakov, who enjoys the Russian president's close confidence, after they both returned to Moscow in 2008. From 2008 to May 2012 (when Putin was prime minister) was Ushakov Deputy Head of Government Staff in Russia. Since then he has been assistant to the President of Russia responsible for international affairs.
As one of Putin's best advisers, Ushakov has obviously been deeply involved in the Kremlin policy toward the United States for several years, and his trusted assistant would have known details of all aspects of the decision-making process involving the United States and Putin.
The New York Times according to : "The Moscow informant played an important role in the CIA's most explosive conclusion about Russia's interference campaign: that President Vladimir V. Putin commissioned and orchestrated it himself."
news media began to speculate about possible CIA assets highly placed in the Kremlin after US intelligence officials released a declassified version of their assessment of Russia's electoral failure in early January 2017.
This was published, significantly, in response to constant public criticism and doubts expressed by then-President Donald Trump about the US intelligence community's assessment of the Russian influence operations that helped him get elected.
It was also around this time that the Russians began to hunt very aggressively for moles within their governments and security services, which may have transmitted information to the Americans. In December, according to news that broke a few weeks later, FSB arrested two of its top cyber officers on treason for cooperating with the CIA. One of them was pulled from a meeting with a bag over his head – according to stories apparently leaked by the Kremlin itself.
About the same time FSB General Oleg Erovinkin, the right-hand man of the mighty Rosneft CEO Igor Sechin, was found dead in his car in Moscow. Sechin has long been rumored to have been an important participant in the Kremlin's efforts to get Trump elected.
No wonder the CIA began to worry about its chief. Putin and his fighters were clearly hell bent on finding the moles behind the leaks.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said at a press conference on Tuesday that although the man named Kommersant used to work for the presidential administration, he had been fired many years ago and he never had contact with the Russian president. (This is a standard procedure for embarrassed and involved politicians who suddenly claim that they barely knew people they have known and worked with for years.)
Although the last thing the Kremlin wants to acknowledge is that one of their own was a CIA access, it will not stop Putin from going after the flight.
As noted, it has long been conventional wisdom that the Kremlin would not dare to murder its enemies in the United States. A 1964 CIA note stated that "Since the Second World War, and especially in the years since Stalin's death, assassination attempts abroad have become increasingly rare … The Soviets have found it increasingly difficult to find people willing to carry out murder missions … and the Soviets are now more concerned about the negative advertising generated by Soviet killings in general than they were in previous years. ”
To be sure, there have been many high-level seniors to the United States who have spent their lives here inevitably. Peter Deriabin, a KGB officer who fled to the United States in 1954, worked for the CIA for several years and wrote several books on the KGB before dying a natural death in 1992 in 71.
And then there was Arkady Shevchenko, who joined it Soviet Foreign Ministry as a young man and rose to the rank of diplomatic service to become a key adviser to Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko.
Shevchenko, who was appointed UN Secretary-General in 1973, began a secret collaboration with the CIA while at the UN and promoted to the United States in 1978. In 1985, Shevchenko published his autobiography, Breaking With Moscow which was very critical against his former government. He died in 1998 at age 68 of liver cirrhosis.
A newer defender was SVR Colonel Aleksandr Potejev, who began to work secretly with the CIA in 1999. He fled Russia in 2010, shortly before the arrests of 10 Russian "illegal" in the United States, whose networks he allegedly helped reveal. In 2011, Poteyev, who has lived in hiding here ever since, was convicted of treason in absentia by a Russian military court.
But there have been at least two suspected deaths of major defectors here in the United States. a hotel room in Washington DC in 1941. Although he made a suicide report, Krivitsky had been convinced he was a target of the murder, and some assumed it was murder.
Later, Sergei Tretyakov, an SVR officer working under diplomatic coverage at the UN since 1995, asked for asylum in the United States in 2000. It was later revealed that he began handing secrets to the Americans in 1997. He was restored, with his wife and daughter, to an undisclosed location under an assumed name. Ten years later, in June 2010, he died suddenly in Florida at the age of 53. He allegedly choked a piece of meat, but the possibility of murder was discussed.
According to a news report from NBC 2018: "There are dozens of defectors from Russia and the former Soviet Union who currently live in the United States already enjoying protection from the CIA and believed to be high on the Russian government's list of potential targets … The US the intelligence company takes responsibility for their relocation and security needs, through the CIA's National Resettlement Operations Center. "
But what does" responsibility for their security needs "mean? Especially for Russians like the Kommersant man and his family, who live here openly?
Even if they move to an undisclosed location, the Russians will as probable reporter Jeff Stein noted in 2018: "They are lonely. They lack their friends and family. So, despite the danger of retaliation, Russian shoppers hiding abroad call or send relatives to relatives in And as they do so, the Kremlin listens, "According to Stein," US security sources say there has been an increase in Russian activity in the United States in recent years; suspicious agents have been found crossing the neighborhood in some defenses protected by CIA security teams. "
One might assume that after the Kremlin's hand was revealed during the 2006 murder of Litvinenko and later in the Skripal poisonings, Putin and his coronation would believe t at times trying to murder in the United States. (Just last month in Berlin, after a Georgian who once commanded rebel Chechen forces was murdered, the assailant was captured immediately.)
While it is true that in this era of high-tech communications, it is easier to find them in hiding than it was in Soviet days, it is also easier to catch hired killers.
But the fact is that Putin doesn't care much if the Kremlin is caught red-handed. On the contrary. The goal, as always, is to send a warning to political enemies and to deflect that Putin's vengeful reach extends all over the world.
Christopher Dickey also contributed to this story.