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Key figure in US, Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak goes home

Sergey Kislyak is a key figure in probes into whether Russia meddled in the 2016 US presidential election. The Washington Post reported that Kislyak discussed campaign issues with Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Sergey Kislyak's diplomatic role as head of the Russia embassy in Washington, DC, came to an end on Saturday, the Russian Embassy announced on its Twitter feed.

Current Minister-Counselor and Deputy Chief of Mission Denis V. Gonchar will head up the embassy until the arrival of Kislyak's successor, who is likely to be the current Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Anatoly Antonov, Reuters reported.

The Russian news agency TASS also reported that on May 18, the International Affairs Committee in the lower house of the Russian parliament endorsed Antonov as the next Ambassador to the US.

A figure at the center of probes

The end of Kislyak's tenure was routine. However, the diplomat's subsequent return to Russia marks the DC departure of a principal figure at the heart of American investigations into whether Moscow interfered in the 2016 presidential election and possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian officials.

Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov (L) and Ambassador Kislyak (R) met with President Trump in the White House in May

Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov (L) and Ambassador Kislyak (R) met with President Trump in the White House in May

Trump's former National Security advisor Michael Flynn was forced to resign just a month after the Trump administration took office after it was revealed he had not disclosed conversations he had with Kislyak.

Current members of the Trump team have also faced allegations of collusion with Russia.

Sessions in hot water?

On Friday, the Washington Post reported that US spy agency intercepts showed that Kislyak told Moscow officials that he had discussed campaign related-issues with Trump's Attorney General Jeff Sessions during the 2016 race for president.

The article pointed out that foreign diplomats have been known to exaggerate or report false information to their superiors, although it also said that among US intelligence officials, Kislyak was known for accurately reporting back to Moscow.

Sessions, who met with Kislyak twice before becoming the head of the Justice Department, originally failed to disclosure the meetings with the Russian. He later said he had misunderstood a question and also had no recollection of an April encounter with the former ambassador.

US Attorney General Jeff Sessions speaks before the Senate

Sessions testified before the Senate in June, repeating that he had never discussed campaign matters with Russians

The attorney general has maintained that he never discussed campaign matters with Russian officials and that any talks were strictly in his capacity of senator.

Sessions recused himself in March from an FBI investigation into the links between the Trump campaign and Russian officials, a move which recently drew fresh criticism from Trump.

Kislyak is also reported to have had contact with Trump's senior advisor and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, multiple times over the course of 2016 – meetings and phone calls which he failed to report when submitting paperwork for his White House security clearance.

Kushner has said he will cooperate with the FBI in the ongoing investigation.

Donald Trump Jr also has become embroiled in allegations regarding possible Russian aid to the Trump campaign.

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US Senate to question Donald Trump Jr

cmb/jm (Reuters, Interfax)

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