The Kommersant story's accuracy was confirmed Friday by President Medvedev, who told reporters on the sidelines of the G-20 summit that "as far as I'm concerned, what was published in Kommersant was not news. I found out about it on the day in happened, with all its attributes."
Medvedev may even be the one responsible for leaking the story to Kommersant, an independent but mainstream Moscow business daily, in the first place, some analysts suggest.
"Medvedev had the feeling that Putin was the big domestic winner from the spy scandal," says Andrei Soldatov, editor of Agentura.ru, an online journal that reports on the secret services. Putin, who appears in increasingly open competition with Medvedev in advance of 2012 presidential elections, used his own background as a KGB spy to appear in charge. In comparison, Medvedev, who was blindsided by the spy revelations at the end of an official visit to the US, looked weak and out-of-the-loop.
"This story makes Medvedev look like he's the guy in charge of the secret services, not Putin," says Mr. Soldatov.
But even though the story's stratospheric sourcing may be taken as genuine, don't assume there's much truth in it, warn some Russian analysts.
"I think the Russian leadership was deeply unhappy about the spy scandal, which made our secret services look like clowns, and so they concocted this tale about how they were really excellent agents who would never have been caught if they hadn't been betrayed by a traitor," says Alexander Golts, a security expert and deputy editor of Yezhednevny Zhurnal, an independent online newspaper.