Oleg Zhiganov and Aleksander Stadnik are the first two Russian alleged “spies” to be identified amongst the 60 individuals the U.S. government expelled, Fox News has been able to confirm.
Zhiganov was the director of the Russian Cultural Centre in Washington, D.C., an organization that calls itself “the official home of Russian culture in the United States.” This is an agency of the Russian government, under the authority of its Foreign Ministry.
In fact, Mr. Zhiganov was named its director in 2014 but has been an employee of the Foreign Ministry of the Russian Federation since 2004. That was after he earned a degree in International Relations from Moscow State University. He also had job posts in Spain and Canada, before moving to the U.S.
Oleg Zhiganov confirmed his expulsion to Fox News via email as he is preparing to leave the country this Saturday just before the deadline given by the U.S. government, “I do confirm that I am one of the persons the U.S. government expelled from the country. I am director of the RCC.”
He found out about it on Monday and stills says has “Absolutely no idea (why he was selected). I wish you had a chance to visit the Russian Cultural Centre and see what we did here.”
His colleagues and friends are still questioning why “Oleg was erroneously included in the latest round of expulsions. (..) I have no idea why and the reason is totally false,” said Lloyd Costley, an American attorney who helped found the Russian Cultural Center in 1999 and who still brings in American support to the organization.
The RCC was created after a bilateral agreement between the two countries and adopted following the Summit of Presidents Gorbachev and Reagan in Geneva in 1985.
Its purpose is “to develop and maintain positive relations between the Russian and American people by sponsoring activities in the five areas of education, the arts, commerce, athletics and science.”
Lloyd Costley explains to Fox News that Oleg would organize cultural performances at the Center by bringing Russian artists to the U.S. “It’s incomprehensible. I would bet everything I own that he is not a spy”, he added.
Zhiganov had initially moved with his wife and 13-year-old daughter to the capital but his wife had recently moved back to Moscow for professional reasons.
Another source tells Fox News that Aleksander Stadnik, the Russian’s Trade Representative to the U.S. based in Washington, D.C. was also kicked out. Stadnik happened to be in Moscow at the time of the announcement and as of the time of this publishing had not responded to Fox News inquiry.
The Trade Representation of the Russian Federation in the U.S. is, just as other countries have, an official body of the Russian Government which “promotes trade and economic cooperation between Russia and the USA. (..) It represents and safeguards state interests in bilateral foreign trade and investment cooperation between two countries.”
Stadnik was appointed in 2014 and has held several positions with the Russian government, including Ministry of Economic Development, but also in other European countries such as Macedonia and Italy. He earned a degree in Economics in 1989, is married and has a son.
The list goes on but so far these are the names that have been made public. In total, there were 60 “undeclared spies” who were pretending to be diplomats, according to U.S. officials. 44 individuals, including some clerks, worked at the Embassy of the Russian Federation in Washington.
Two other intelligence officers worked at the Russian Consulate in New York and the remaining 12 at the Mission of the Russian Federation to the United Nations. All of them have now until April 1 to leave the United States.