August 25, 2017

Putin names EU-sanctioned diplomat as Russia’s ambassador to the U.S.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin has appointed Anatoly Antonov, a veteran diplomat who is under European Union sanctions for his role in Moscow’s interference in Ukraine, as ambassador to the United States.

The appointment of Mr. Antonov, who has served in both the Foreign Affairs Ministry and the Defense Ministry of Russia, was announced on the Kremlin’s website on August 21.

Mr. Antonov, 62, has been a staunch public advocate of Russia’s assertive foreign policy in recent years and is seen as a tough negotiator on issues, including arms control.

In February 2015, the EU added Mr. Antonov to a list of Russians targeted by sanctions over Moscow’s takeover of Crimea and backing for armed separatists in eastern Ukraine. The EU said he was “involved in supporting the deployment of Russian troops in Ukraine.”

Canada and Ukraine have also imposed sanctions on Mr. Antonov, who was a deputy defense minister from February 2011 to December 2016. The United States has not.

More than 10,000 people have been killed since April 2014 in the conflict between Ukrainian government forces and the Russia-backed separatists, who hold parts of two oblasts in eastern Ukraine.

Prior to his ambassadorial appointment, Mr. Antonov had been a deputy minister of foreign affairs.

Mr. Antonov is to replace Sergei Kislyak, who had been Russia’s ambassador to Washington since 2008.

Ambassador Kislyak’s meetings with former U.S. national security adviser Michael Flynn and other associates of President Donald Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign and the transition following Mr. Trump’s win on November 8 are among the subjects of U.S. investigations into alleged Russian meddling in the election and whether there was any collusion between Russia and allies of Mr. Trump.

The Kremlin announcement of Mr. Antonov’s appointment, which had been widely reported to be imminent in recent weeks, came shortly after the U.S. Embassy said that nonimmigrant visa processing would be suspended at the embassy and consulates in Russia as of August 23 – the latest development in a series of disputes that have severely strained U.S.-Russian ties since Mr. Putin returned to the presidency for a third term in 2012.

With reporting by RFE/RL’s Ukrainian Service, AFP and Reuters.

Copyright 2017, RFE/RL Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave. NW, Washington DC 20036; www.rferl.org (see https://www.rferl.org/a/russia-antonov-new-ambassador-united-states-kislyak/28688485.html).

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