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Anatoly Antonov

Putin tapped a former top defense official as Russian ambassador to the US

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Russian President Vladimir Putin has named his nation’s new ambassador to the U.S., the Kremlin announced Monday.

The Kremlin said Putin tapped Anatoly Antonov to replace outgoing Russian Ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak.

Antonov is a Russian deputy foreign minister and a former Russian deputy defense minister seen as a hardliner regarding the U.S.

Kislyak’s tenure ended in July, and the outgoing ambassador returned to Russia last month amid controversy over his nation’s possible meddling in the 2016 presidential race.

A person who has dealt with Antonov, meanwhile, told Reuters that he is a tough, military-style person.

Antonov, 62, is reportedly a diplomat by training and served as Russia’s deputy defense minister between 2011 and 2016.

That period coincided with Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula, according to Reuters, and led to European sanctions against Antonov for his role in the conflict.

The European Union (EU) added Antonov to its list of officials who are subject to Ukraine-related sanctions in 2015.

EU officials cited Antonov’s involvement in supporting the deployment of troops in Ukraine as rationale for the sanctions, according to Reuters.

Antonov has served as a liaison between Russia’s foreign ministry and its military since becoming its deputy foreign minister last year.

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Russia’s armed forces are increasingly influential in its foreign policy, most notably with Moscow launching military operations in Syria.

Kislyak, for his part, has emerged as a central figure in Russia’s potential interference in America’s presidential election last year.

Michael Flynn, who was President Trump’s first national security adviser, resigned in February after reportedly misleading Vice President Mike Pence about his past contacts with Kislyak.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions then recused himself from the probe of Russia’s election meddling last year in March following reports he did not disclose meetings with Kislyak in 2016.

The FBI and several congressional committees are investigating Russia’s intrusions into the 2016 race, including possible collusion between Trump’s election campaign and Moscow.

Trump has fiercely denied his campaign colluded with Russia, and has called the probe a “witch hunt” against him.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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