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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

U.S. Official Says Russian Diplomat Has ""Defected""

WASHINGTON - Sergei Tretyakov, a diplomat from Russia who represented his country at the United Nations in New York, has "defected" to the United States, a U.S. official said Tuesday, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The official said that Tretyakov, a first secretary at Russia's U.N. mission, had inquired about remaining in the United States and defected last October with his wife, Elena, and other members of his family.

State Department officials said they did not know whether Tretyakov had applied for asylum. They also said they had no details about the legal basis for defecting from Russia, which is no longer considered a totalitarian country. Defections have been rare over the last decade, since the end of the Cold War.

Russian officials in New York and in Washington were not available for questions.

A Sergei Tretyakov was Russian ambassador to Iran in 1996, but there was no way of confirming this was the same man. Tretyakov is not an unusual surname in Russia, and Sergei is an extremely common personal name.

But if the U.N. diplomat is the same man, he could have information of interest to the United States. Russia's former Cold War foe still competes with it for information.

Iran and Russia announced long-term military cooperation in December, showing Russian President Vladimir Putin's desire to boost his country's strategic interests and make profits.

The United States and Russia have been at odds over Moscow's intentions toward Iran, which Washington accuses of trying to acquire weapons of mass destruction.

Another post-Soviet case of a Russian defector involved Stanislav Lunev, a correspondent for Itar-Tass who defected while working in Washington in 1992.

He told the Miami Herald newspaper in 1998 that the Soviet Union learned of U.S. battle plans in the 1991 Gulf War through an electronic spy network based in Cuba but did not pass them on to Iraq.

One former National Security Agency official was quoted by the paper as describing Lunev as a "credible defector with credible tales to tell."