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Russia's ambassador to leave post in U.S.

By Allen Cone
Russia's ambassador to leave post in U.S.
Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak poses for a picture after NASA astronaut William Shepherd was awarded the Russian Medal for Merit in Space Exploration on December 2 at NASA Headquarters in Washington. On Monday, Russia's Foreign Ministry said Kislyak will return to Moscow after serving in the post for nine years. Photo by Joel Kowsky/NASA

June 26 (UPI) -- Sergey Kislyak, Russia's ambassador to the United States and a key figure in the alleged meddling of the U.S. president election, is leaving his post and returning to Moscow, the nation's Foreign Ministry said Monday.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said the departure is part of a regular rotation "all planned in advance."

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Kislyak's replacement in Washington will be Anatoly Antonov, according to Russian state media. Antonov is currently the deputy foreign minister and previously served as deputy minister of defense.

BuzzFeed reported three sources said Kislyak was to leave Washington next month after a July 11 going-away party for him by the U.S.-Russia Business Council at the St. Regis Hotel, two blocks away from the White House.

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Kislyak had several meetings with members of Donald Trump's campaign and met with the president in the Oval Office on May 10 with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. During that meeting, Trump shared classified intelligence information with the Russians and called fired FBI Director James Comey, a "nut job."

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National Security Adviser Michael Flynn was fired on Feb. 13 -- 24 days after Trump took office -- for failing to disclose the nature of a meeting with Kislyak before Trump's inauguration.

The ambassador also met with then-Sen. Jeff Sessions during the campaign. In Senate confirmation hearings to become attorney general, he failed to disclosed those meetings. Later, Sessions recused himself from Russian investigation matters.

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Senior adviser Jared Kushner, the son-in-law of Trump, also met with Kislyak last year and did not disclose it to congressional and federal officials.

Congressional committees and Department of Justice special counsel Robert Mueller are investigating allegations of collusion between Trump's campaign and Russia in an effort to defeat rival candidate Hillary Clinton.

In March, CNN reported that the United States considers Kislyak to be one of Russia's top spies and spy-recruiters in Washington. Russia's Foreign Ministry strongly rejected the allegations.

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Kislyak, who was trained as an engineer, joined the Foreign Ministry in 1977. He was an envoy to the United States between 1985 and 1989, specializing in arms control. Then, he served as Russia's ambassador to NATO and as deputy foreign minister.

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He became the U.S. ambassador shortly before Barack Obama became president.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova on Monday said Kislyak, "who has worked in the U.S. for nine years, will go down in the history of bilateral relations as a man who made everything possible for their development, even in the most difficult moments."

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