Sergei Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to Washington who was in contact with multiple U.S. officials in Donald Trump’s administration during the 2016 presidential campaign and the lead-up to Trump’s inauguration, left his post over the weekend, the Russian embassy announced in a Saturday morning tweet.
Kislyak was replaced in the interim by Minister-Counseler and Deputy Chief of Mission Denis V. Gonchar until his successor arrives from Moscow.
Kislyak served as Russian ambassador to the U.S. from 2008 and is expected to be replaced by Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Anatoly Antonov, whose nomination has not yet been approved by the Kremlin, Reuters reported.
Kislyak’s name entered the mainstream of U.S. political debate and discourse for his 2016 meetings and phone calls with U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, and senior Trump adviser Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law who will testify Monday in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee.
Kushner plans to tell senators he “had no improper contacts” and “did not collude, nor know of anyone else in the campaign who colluded” with Russia or any other foreign government, according to prepared remarks released by Kushner’s legal team.
The White House in March said Kushner met with Kislyak at Trump Tower in December 2016 and at a campaign speech in Washington in April 2016, meetings Kushner failed to disclose to the U.S. State Department on his security clearance application.
Kushner and Kislyak also talked over the phone at least twice from April to November 2016, Reuters reported, conversations that Kushner’s lawyer said he has “no recollection” of.
Sessions again came under intense scrutiny last week when the Washington Post reported that U.S. spy agencies had intercepted communications between Kislyak and Moscow in which Kislyak said he had discussed campaign-related in an April 2016 meeting with Sessions.
When Sessions recused himself from the Russia investigation in March, he denied that he and Kislyak had touched on the campaign in that meeting, saying “I never had meetings with Russian operatives or Russian intermediaries about the Trump campaign.”
Sessions testified before the Senate in June that he could not recall the meeting.
Flynn resigned in February — three weeks after Trump’s inauguration — after a New York Times report revealed he and Kislyak had discussed easing U.S. sanctions on Russia and collaboration between the two countries in Syria once Trump took the oath of office.
Flynn had previously failed to disclose the content of his conversations with Kislyak and allegedly misled vice president Mike Pence about the meetings.
Congress is set to pass a sanctions bill on Russia and its Middle East partner Iran before the August recess, according to reports Friday that House Republicans and Democrats were able to move past a snag involving the addition of sanctions on North Korea.
The Trump administration has unsuccessfully asked Congress to ease the bill’s measures relating to Russia.