Washington — United States Ambassador to Russia John Sullivan will be returning to the U.S. this week to meet with the Biden administration, he said Tuesday, after the Kremlin suggested days ago he travel back to Washington amid growing tensions between the two countries.
Sullivan, appointed by former President Donald Trump, said in a statement released by the U.S. embassy in Moscow that he is making the trip to “speak directly with my new colleagues in the Biden administration in Washington about the current state of bilateral relations between the United States and Russia.”
He also said he has not seen his family for more than a year and will return to Russia in the “coming weeks” before any meeting between President Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Sullivan’s trip to Washington comes less than a week after Mr. Biden announced sweeping sanctions against Russia in response to a range of issues, including the SolarWinds cyber breach, interference in the 2020 presidential election and the buildup of Russian troops near the border in eastern Ukraine.
The Biden administration’s sanctions target 32 Russian entities and individuals, and includes the expulsion of 10 Russian officials from Washington.
The Kremlin retaliated against the U.S. by expelling 10 American diplomats and banning eight current and former U.S. officials from Russia. Among those barred are Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines, FBI Director Christopher Wray, Attorney General Merrick Garland and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. The Kremlin also banned former National Security Adviser John Bolton, who served under Mr. Trump, and former CIA Director R. James Woolsey, who served under former President Bill Clinton.
Sergey Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, said at a press conference last week the Kremlin told Sullivan he should return to Washington for “serious, detailed consultations.”
The Russian government summoned its ambassador in Washington, Anatoly Antonov, to Moscow for consultations on relations with the U.S. last month after Mr. Biden described Putin as a “killer” and said Putin was “pay a price” for Russia’s election interference.
In addition to the sanctions imposed on Russia, the White House has warned Moscow will face consequences if jailed Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny, who is on a hunger strike, dies. Navalny was transferred to a prison hospital Monday after his doctors said he would die within days without medical treatment.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters Monday that if Navalny dies in Russian custody, “there will be consequences to the Russian government, and we reserve those options.”