April 20, 2021
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US Ambassador Exits Moscow Amid Tension04/20 06:02

   The U.S. ambassador to Russia said Tuesday he will head home for 
consultations -- a move that comes after the Kremlin prodded him to take a 
break as Washington and Moscow traded sanctions.

   MOSCOW (AP) -- The U.S. ambassador to Russia said Tuesday he will head home 
for consultations -- a move that comes after the Kremlin prodded him to take a 
break as Washington and Moscow traded sanctions.

   The Kremlin emphasized that it couldn't order Ambassador John Sullivan to 
leave for consultations and could only "recommend" that he do so amid the 
current tensions.

   Sullivan said in a statement that he is returning to the United States this 
week to discuss U.S.-Russian ties with members of President Joe Biden's 
administration. He emphasized that he would come back to Moscow within weeks.

   "I believe it is important for me to speak directly with my new colleagues 
in the Biden administration in Washington about the current state of bilateral 
relations between the United States and Russia," Sullivan said in a statement 
issued by the embassy. "Also, I have not seen my family in well over a year, 
and that is another important reason for me to return home for a visit."

   Sullivan's departure comes after Russia on Friday stopped short of asking 
Sullivan to leave the country but said it "suggested" that he follows the 
example of the Russian ambassador to the U.S., who was recalled from Washington 
last month after President Joe Biden described Russian President Vladimir Putin 
as a "killer." Russia has set no time frame for Ambassador Anatoly Antonov's 
return to Washington.

   Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said the ambassadors' departures reflect 
current tensions in the relationship between the United States and Russia.

   "The relations now have hit the bottom," Peskov said. "There are certain 
consequences of the unfriendly measures taken against our country and the 
retaliatory measures taken by us."

   On Thursday, the Biden administration announced sanctions on Russia for 
interfering in the 2020 U.S. presidential election and for involvement in the 
SolarWind hack of federal agencies -- activities Moscow has denied. The U.S. 
ordered 10 Russian diplomats expelled, targeted dozens of companies and people 
and imposed new curbs on Russia's ability to borrow money.

   Russia denounced the U.S. move as "absolutely unfriendly and unprovoked" and 
retaliated by ordering 10 U.S. diplomats to leave, blacklisting eight current 
and former U.S. officials and tightening requirements for the U.S. Embassy 

   While ordering the sanctions, Biden also called for de-escalating tensions 
and held the door open for cooperation with Russia in certain areas.

   Biden emphasized that he told Putin that he chose not to impose tougher 
sanctions for now and proposed to meet in a third country in the summer. Russia 
said it was studying the offer.

   "I will return to Moscow in the coming weeks before any meeting between 
Presidents Biden and Putin," Sullivan said in Tuesday's statement.

   On Monday, U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan had a call with 
Nikolai Patrushev, the secretary of the Russian presidential Security Council, 
to discuss the prospect of a U.S.-Russian summit and they "agreed to continue 
to stay in touch," according to a statement from U.S. National Security Council 
spokesperson Emily Horne.

   Peskov noted the Sullivan-Patrushev call, adding Tuesday that "if it becomes 
expedient, the ambassadors will come back and resume their duties."

   "As for the Russian ambassador, the president of Russia will decide when 
such expediency comes," Peskov said during a conference call with reporters.

   He said, "Russia certainly can't order" the U.S. ambassador to return home 
for consultations but can recommend that he do so.

   Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said that "we are in the very 
beginning of analyzing the situation" regarding Biden's summit proposal and no 
specifics have been discussed yet. "A big question is what course the U.S. will 
take," Ryabkov said in remarks carried by Russian news agencies.

   While the new U.S. sanctions further limited Russia's ability to borrow 
money by banning U.S. financial institutions from buying Russian government 
bonds directly from state institutions, they didn't target the secondary 
market. The Biden administration held the door open for more hard-hitting moves 
if need be.

   Fyodor Lukyanov, a leading Moscow-based foreign policy expert, said while 
the Kremlin's advice to Sullivan to leave for consultations stopped short of 
expulsion, it reflected Moscow's dismay about the new sanctions.

   "If the political contacts have been reduced to zero, and economic ties 
never were close enough, why have so many people in the embassies?" Lukyanov 
said in a commentary. He predicted that ties will continue to deteriorate 
despite Biden's offer to hold a summit.

   "During the past Cold War, the Soviet Union and the United States at least 
shared a certain mutual respect and a recognition of each other's political 
legitimacy, and it's no longer the case," Lukyanov observed.

   "Each party sees the other as heading toward decay and lacking the moral and 
political right to behave as it does," he said.

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