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Russia’s Sanctioned Spy Chief Reportedly Met CIA Director in the U.S.

The head of Moscow’s foreign intel service, which masterminded 2016 election interference, supposedly talked to Mike Pompeo about working together on terrorism.

Denis Balibouse/Reuters

Russia’s sanctioned spy chief recently visited the United States and reportedly met with CIA Director Mike Pompeo, Russian state media reported Tuesday.

Sergey Naryshkin, director of Russia’s foreign intelligence service, the SVR, was spotted aboard a commercial Aeroflot flight to the United States, Russian state-owned news channel Rossiya-1 reported. The SVR is blamed by the U.S. government for a key role in the Kremlin’s interference with the 2016 election. A reporter for the network said Naryshkin landed in New York and met with the CIA director.

Representatives for the CIA and the office of the Director of National Intelligence declined comment to The Daily Beast about whether Pompeo or any other U.S. intelligence official recently met with with Naryshkin—who has been under U.S. sanctions for the past three years.

“While we do not discuss the schedules of U.S. intelligence leaders, rest assured that any interaction with foreign intelligence agencies would have been conducted in accordance with U.S. law and in consultation with appropriate Departments and agencies," a CIA spokesman told The Daily Beast.

"Sergey Yevgenievich was here. He arrived. He had meetings with his colleagues here,” Russia’s ambassador to the U.S. Anatoly Antonov told Rossiya-1. It is unclear when the meeting took place.

Antonov said the meeting was about possible areas of cooperation between the U.S. and Russia.

"I want to tell you that in the most difficult times, the most difficult times, contact between the special services continued. Politics is politics, and work is work. There are political slogans, and then there's real work,” Antonov said, adding, “They of course discussed the question of joint fight against terrorism.”

Antonov suggested that ties between Russian and American intelligence services run deep, but out of sight for the casual observer.

“The work is continuing, it's just, probably correctly, not very visible to the viewer, the reader,” Antonov said. “But I think that work will continue in the future."

Naryshkin was sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department over Russia’s conflict in Ukraine in 2014. At that time, he was chairman of Russia’s legislature, the Duma. He was appointed head of the SVR in September 2016.

In January 2017, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence issued a report saying it had “high confidence” that Russian security services interfered in the 2016 presidential election. In particular, it singled out Russia’s military intelligence service, the GRU, which works closely with the SVR, as a main instigator of operations against the U.S.

While Pompeo has in the past acknowledged cooperating with Russia on counterterrorism operations, the CIA director told the BBC this week that he anticipates Moscow will continue to interfere in U.S. elections.

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“I have every expectation that they will continue to try and do that, but I'm confident that America will be able to have a free and fair election [and] that we will push back in a way that is sufficiently robust that the impact they have on our election won't be great,” Pompeo said.