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Russia denies its UK ambassador was spy in US

By REN QI | China Daily | Updated: 2019-03-05 09:42
Russian Ambassador to Britain Alexander Yakovenko addresses the media at a news conference in the official Russian Ambassador's residence in London, Oct 12, 2018. [Photo/Agencies]

The Russian government has denied a British newspaper report that a senior diplomat now serving in the United Kingdom was once a Soviet spy and was expelled from the United States in the 1980s.

The Russian Foreign Ministry also requested an official apology from The Mail on Sunday.

The report in the Sunday issue suggested that Alexander Yakovenko, Russia's current ambassador to the UK, was once expelled from the US during a "famous purge of agents at the height of the Cold War" in the 1980s.

"We have noted Mail on Sunday piece on Ambassador Yakovenko. As was made clear to your correspondent yesterday, we would have been prepared to comment on statements regarding the ambassador personally if we had an opportunity to look at the article in advance," the Russian ministry said in a letter on Sunday.

"The information that Mr Yakovenko, when working at the USSR Mission in New York, was expelled for spying, is not true. Mr Yakovenko worked at the mission from 1981 and 1986 and left after the standard term of posting expired. The allegation on him having been expelled is a blatant lie," the ministry said.

According to the newspaper's investigation, Yakovenko, a career Russian diplomat, was one of scores of "senior intelligence officers" expelled by the Ronald Reagan's government in October 1986 as part of a wide-ranging crackdown on Russian intelligence operatives.

"We can also reveal that Mr Yakovenko was awarded a military medal 'For Merits to the Fatherland' in 1996, an accolade often given to spies, including Andrey Lugovoy, one of the two men widely held to have murdered former Russian agent Alexander Litvinenko in London in 2006," The Mail on Sunday said.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said that British media "celebrate" the anniversary of the March 4, 2018 incident in which former GRU Colonel Sergei Skripal and his daughter were poisoned in England.

Zakharova criticized the newspaper's investigation and the facts that used.

"Alexander Yakovenko has worked in New York for five years and completed his work assignment as scheduled," she said.

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