Was It Putin Spying on Ronald Reagan in ’88 Moscow Photo?

Was It Putin Spying on Ronald Reagan in '88 Moscow Photo? ronald reagan shakes young boys hand In this handout from the White House, U.S. President Ronald Reagan (2nd R) shakes hands with a boy as Mikhail Gorbachev (R) looks on during a tour of Red Square May 31, 1988, in Moscow, Soviet Union. (Pete Souza/White House via Getty Images)

By Eric Mack | Wednesday, 16 June 2021 11:50 AM

A 1998 photo of former President Ronald Reagan's visit to Moscow appears to show a young Vladimir Putin posing as a tourist, leading the photographer to speculate the former KGB agent was spying on the U.S. president.

The photo has been discussed for a few years, but White House photographer Pete Souza resurfaced it this week as President Joe Biden takes his first meeting with the Russian president.

Souza, who was the White House photographer during the Reagan and Obama administrations, posted the photo on Instagram on Wednesday:

"A Putin mystery. Or not.⁣⁣

"In 1988, I photographed President Reagan during his visit to Moscow. Mikhail Gorbachev, the leader of the then Soviet Union, gave Reagan a tour of Red Square where groups of 'tourists' (KGB agents?) were positioned around the square. Note the man on the left with the camera around his neck.⁣⁣"

Souza also regaled his Instagram followers of how he came to suspect Putin was the man in the photo looking like a cliche '80s tourist:

⁣⁣"In 1993, I published a book of photographs ('Unguarded Moments') from my tenure at the White House during the Reagan administration.

"Some ten years later, I received a random letter in the mail from someone who asked if I knew I had captured a picture of Reagan and Vladimir Putin as shown on page 145 in my book. (Putin had by then become the President of Russia). I was astounded by this letter.⁣⁣

"I contacted both the Reagan Library and a NSC official in the Bush 43 administration. No one could definitively say whether it was Putin. In 1988, Putin was in fact in the KGB, though he was apparently stationed in East Germany.⁣⁣"

The Kremlin has denied Putin is the tourist in the photo, Souza added, admitting he "never should have said that, because in fact it had never been verified.⁣⁣"

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