Kremlin hardliner to be next Russian ambassador to the US | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 21.08.2017
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Kremlin hardliner to be next Russian ambassador to the US

Anatoly Antonov will become Russian ambassador to the US at a time when bilateral relations are at a post-Cold War low. He also takes the job at a time when the role of Russian ambassador is under scrutiny in Washington.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has picked a career diplomat, considered a hard-liner, to be Moscow's next ambassador to the United States.

Anatoly Antonov, 62, spent 33 years working in the foreign ministry, before jumping to the defense ministry in 2011, where he became a deputy minister in charge of international relations.

He takes the job at a particularly tense time in US-Russian relations. Late last month the US imposed sanctions against Kremlin insiders in response to Moscow's interference in last year's US presidential election - a charge the Kremlin denies.

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That comes on top of sanctions imposed by the US and the European Union after Russia's annexation of the Crimean peninsula in 2014.

Antonov is a direct target of EU sanctions. As a deputy defense minister, Antonov participated in shaping policies that "threaten the territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence of Ukraine," according to the sanctions list.

The Kremlin responded to the new round of US sanctions by ordering Washington to slash 755 diplomatic staff members in Russia - nearly two-thirds of its staff.

Antonov comes to Washington not only at a time of tense bilateral relations but at a moment when the position of Russian ambassador is under a cloud.

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His predecessor Sergei Kislyak was at the center of allegations that the Kremlin interfered in the US election, in part because he met with members of Trump's inner circle, including son-in-law Jared Kushner and his short-lived national security adviser, retired General Michael Flynn.

Flynn was forced to resign little more than three weeks into the job when it was revealed that he had communicated with Kislyak and had not been forthcoming about those conversations.

A special prosecutor and congressional committees are currently investigating what connections Flynn, Kushner and other members of the Trump campaign may have had with Russian officials before and after the November election, but before Trump took office on January 20.

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In 2010, before departing for the defense ministry, he led negotiations on various international agreements, including the 2010 New START nuclear arms reduction treaty signed by the United States and Russia.

The US negotiator Rose Gottemoeller said in 2011 that the two sides did not become chummy during the negotiations but that that didn't matter.

"The best words to describe the spirit of the talks would be 'mutual respect.' It is thanks to that mutual respect that our meetings were always businesslike and very productive," she said. "As ambassador, Antonov would frequently say, 'business is business'."

bik/bk (AP, Reuters, AFP, dpa)

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