"The information that Mr Yakovenko… was expelled for spying is not true. Mr Yakovenko worked at the [Soviet] Mission [in New York] 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 allegation on Mr Yakovenko having received a state award 'military medal… often given to spies' is also untrue… In light of the above, the ambassador is awaiting your apologies, and we challenge you to publish this letter," Vladislav Novikov, the head of the embassy's press office, said in his open letter, published on the website of the embassy.
The Russian Foreign Ministry's spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova, has also condemned the Mail on Sunday's report, calling it a "blatant fake."
The newspaper claimed on Saturday it had found out that Yakovenko, who was part of the Soviet Union's permanent mission at the United Nations between 1981 and 1986, was expelled from the United States "during a famous purge of agents at the height of the Cold War." An unnamed intelligence source told the Mail on Sunday that since Yakovenko had allegedly been "in the first batch removed," as "the Americans must have been fairly confident" about his spying activities.