- The Washington Times - Monday, June 26, 2017

One of the central characters in the saga over alleged Kremlin meddling in the 2016 presidential election — Russia’s Ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak — is being recalled to Moscow, according to published reports.

Online news site BuzzFeed, citing three unnamed sources, reported Mr. Kislyak will leave Washington next month after a July 11 going-away party at Washington’s St. Regis Hotel.

Mr. Kislyak, 66, is ending a 10-year run as Russia’s leading emissary to the United States.

Controversy has swirled around him since last year, particularly with respect to his communications with the highest levels of the Trump administration.

Michael Flynn, a retired Army lieutenant general and the president’s former national security advisor, was forced to resign from that role in February after it was reported he had discussed sanctions against Russia with Mr. Kislyak prior to Mr. Trump’s inauguration, then lied to Vice President Mike Pence about the nature of those talks.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a former Trump campaign surrogate, landed in hot water a month later when it was revealed he had spoken twice with Mr. Kislyak in 2016 but failed to disclose those conversations when asked by Congress.

Mr. Sessions ultimately agreed to recuse himself from any Justice Department matters concerning Russia on account of those talks, yet notably supported Mr. Trump’s decision to fire FBI Director James Comey last month notwithstanding the latter’s role in overseeing an ongoing federal probe focused on the Trump campaign’s purported ties to Russia.

In May, the Associated Press reported that President Trump’s son-in-law and White House special adviser, Jared Kushner and Mr. Kislyak tried to set up a secret back-channel communications line with Russia that would have used Russian equipment.

Also in May, Mr. Trump met with Mr. Kislyak and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in the Oval Office. During that meeting, Mr. Trump allegedly bragged about firing FBI Director James Comey, whom he reportedly called a “nut job.”

The U.S. intelligence community concluded in January that Mr. Putin interfered in last year’s White House race by using state-sponsored hackers and his government-funded propaganda apparatus to damage the campaign of Mr. Trump’s former rival, Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

A special Department of Justice investigation and multiple congressional probes are currently investigating the issue, with Mr. Sessions having already testified.

The Kremlin and White House have denied involvement in the alleged influence campaign.

Last month Russia’s Kommersant newspaper reported that Mr. Kislyak would leave his Washington job for a position in New York City, heading up the new Counter-Terrorism Office at United Nations headquarters.

Mr. Kislyak represented the Soviet Union at the U.N. during the 1980s.

Russia’s current representative to the U.N., Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Anatoly Antonov, is poised to replace Mr. Kislyak as Moscow’s ambassador to Washington, Kommersant reported, exiting the role he inherited earlier this year upon the passing of Vitaly Churkin, Russia’s longtime U.N. attache.

Prior to becoming Moscow’s ambassador to Washington, Mr. Kislyak served as Russia’s representative to Belgium for five years under President Boris Yeltsin. Mr. Antonov, meanwhile, previously served as Russia’s deputy minister of defense before being appointed to the foreign affairs ministry by Mr. Putin late last year.

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