- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 11, 2017

The Russian diplomat responsible for triggering President Trump’s former national security advisor to resign from office is poised to leave his job in Washington for a new role in New York City.

Sergey Kislyak, Moscow’s ambassador to the United States since 2008, has been nominated to head the new Counter-Terrorism Office in the works at United Nations headquarters, Russia’s Kommersant newspaper reported Thursday.

While Mr. Kislyak is certainly no stranger to the U.N. — he represented the Soviet Union there during the 1980s — he’s arguably best known in the U.S. for his presence in and around Washington, particularly with respect to his communications with former and current members 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 lifting 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 this week notwithstanding the latter’s role in overseeing an ongoing federal probe focused on the Trump campaign’s purported ties to Russia.

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. The FBI as well as the House and Senate Intelligence Committees are currently investigating allegations of collusion between Mr. Trump’s campaign and the Russian government, and lawmakers subpoenaed Mr. Flynn as recently as Wednesday this week for documents pertaining to his contacts with Russia.

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

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.

Federal lawmakers in Russia’s Duma and Federation Council will likely consider Mr. Antonov’s nomination later this month, Kommersant reported. If confirmed as anticipated, he’s expected to be sent stateside the following month — after, of course, a meeting between Mr. Trump and his Russian counterpart expected to happen in Hamburg this July, according to the newspaper. 

Mr. Kislyak, in the meantime, has hardly been silent in the wake of reports involving his calls with the Trump campaign. He visited the White House on Wednesday this week during Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov’s Oval Office meeting with Mr. Trump.

• Andrew Blake can be reached at ablake@washingtontimes.com.

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