US ambassador to Russia heading home for consultations amid tensions

US Ambassador to Russia John Sullivan said on Tuesday that he would leave Russia temporarily to discuss bilateral ties with colleagues in Washington, days after Moscow suggested him to return home for consultations amid tensions between the two countries.

“I believe it is important for me 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,” Sullivan said in a brief statement, Xinhua news agency reported.

The envoy said he would return to Moscow “in the coming weeks” before a possible in-person meeting between US President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

State Department spokesperson Ned Price told reporters later Tuesday that Sullivan is “returning at an opportune time to undertake consultations here to see his family,” noting that his return was not an expulsion by Russia.

He added that Sullivan had been deeply engaged in “our new approach to Russia,” which aims at a stable and predictable relationship with Moscow.

Sullivan’s leave follows recent diplomatic clashes between the two countries.

Last Thursday, the Biden administration announced the expulsion of 10 Russian diplomats and sweeping sanctions against individuals and entities in response to Moscow’s alleged election interference and cyber activities.

Russia on Friday said that it would expel 10 US diplomats, bar eight incumbent and former American high-ranking officials from entering Russia indefinitely, among other restrictions.

“This extremely tense situation objectively requires the ambassadors of our countries to be in their respective capitals to analyze developments and hold consultations,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Friday.

Russian Ambassador to the United States Anatoly Antonov has been summoned back to Moscow for a month amid the deteriorating ties.

While authorizing punitive measures against Russia, Biden also called for de-escalating the tensions and proposed a summit with Putin in Europe this summer to address a range of bilateral issues.

Biden’s National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan spoke with his Russian counterpart on Monday and discussed the prospect of the summit.