Heads of 3 Russian intelligence agencies met with CIA director in US: Report
The heads of three Russian intelligence agencies traveled to the United States to meet with CIA Director Mike Pompeo, amid a series of political rifts between the two sides over US President Donald Trump’s alleged collusion with Russian officials and Washington’s renewal of sanctions against Moscow.
The Russian embassy in the US confirmed Tuesday that Sergei Naryshkin, head of Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service (FIS), was in the US to discuss the fight on terrorism with Pompeo.
It has now been revealed in a report by The Washington Post that accompanying Naryshkin during the trip were two other chiefs — Alexander Bortnikov, director of the Federal Security Service (FSB), and Colonel General Igor Korobov, chief of the Russian General Staff’s Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU).
According to the Post, Bortnikov also met with the CIA chief but it was not clear which American officials Korobov had met with.
A senior US intelligence official in Moscow also headed back to Washington to partake in the meetings, an unnamed US government source familiar with the matter told the paper.
The encounters raised concern among some US politicians, who interpreted them as signs of the Trump administration’s willingness to work with Moscow despite concerns at home about the government of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s alleged interference in the 2016 US presidential election.
While the meetings between Russian and American spymasters are not unheard of, current and former US officials told the Post that this particular trip by so many heads of Russian intelligence agencies was unprecedented.
Pompeo defends meeting
After facing heavy criticism from Democrats, specially Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer who said “there was something untoward” in the meetings, Pompeo said Thursday that the meetings were nothing out of the ordinary.
“While Russia remains an adversary, we would put American lives at greater risk if we ignored opportunities to work with the Russian services in the fight against terrorism,” Pompeo said.
“We cover very difficult subjects in which American and Russian interests do not align,” he added.
Russia says the expected US sanctions report is an attempt to influence Russia’s presidential election in March.
Schumer had specifically asked for more details about Naryshkin, who is on Washington’s sanctions list, and that whether the trip had anything to do with the Trump administration’s refusal this week to impose new sanctions against Russia.
The Trump White House had until Monday to implement a sanctions bill against Moscow but instead informed lawmakers that the legislation, which was passed last year, was already “serving as a deterrent.”
The trip also came days before Washington released a list of 114 Russian politicians and 96 “oligarchs” close to the Kremlin upon a request by Congress. Bortnikov is among the sanctioned senior Russian officials.
US media did not rule out a possible connection between the meeting and Washington’s decision to shelve the sanctions bill for the near future.