Russia is reportedly recalling Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, the man who has emerged as a focal point in the FBI probe into Russia’s election interference, The Hill reports. BuzzFeed News is citing three sources saying Russia is calling Kislyak back home.
The Kremlin did not confirm when Kislyak would be going back to Russia, but the US-Russia Business Council on July 11 will have a going away party for Kislyak at the St. Regis Hotel, the report said.
The decision to bring Kislyak back to Russia rather than appoint him to a senior position at the United Nations in New York, as several outlets have previously reported, comes amid investigations by the FBI and Congress into the 66-year-old diplomat’s contacts with President Donald Trump’s top aides during the 2016 presidential campaign.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions, former national security adviser Michael Flynn and White House senior adviser Jared Kushner have all come under investigation in recent months over undisclosed meetings or contacts they each had with Kislyak.
All three men failed to report their meetings or conversations with the Russian ambassador at various times. The FBI is investigating whether those meetings were part of alleged collaboration between the Trump campaign and Russian agents seeking to influence the 2016 election. “He could use some time away”, said a US-based diplomat.
At one point, the intrigue spread beyond the Trump camp, as in late April, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi claimed she’d never met Kislyak shortly before photos surfaced of her meeting with him alongside other lawmakers in 2010.
A persistent question for investigators is a 20-minute meeting between Kislyak, Kushner and Flynn in December. The Washington Post reported that after that meeting, U.S. spies intercepted communication of Kislyak mentioning a request from Kushner to open a secret channel to the Kremlin that would avoid U.S. monitoring.
The ambassador was reportedly “taken aback by the suggestion of allowing an American to use Russian communications gear at its embassy or consulate.” The White House denied the story.
Earlier this month, when a BuzzFeed News reporter asked Kislyak about Kushner’s request at an embassy party in Washington, the Russian ambassador declined to comment.
“We have a policy. We do not comment on our daily contacts in America or anywhere else because we need to respect our interlocutors,” Kislyak said.
Kislyak was reportedly under consideration to lead a new UN counterterrorism office based in New York. However, the position has since been offered to veteran Russian diplomat Vladimir Voronkov, a UN official announced last week.
In Kislyak’s place, the Kremlin is expected to send Russian deputy foreign minister, Anatoly Antonov, according to Russian media reports. Antonov, a tough negotiator who is on the EU’s sanctions list, will need final approval by Russia’s parliament, BuzzFeed News reports.