US ambassador to Russia leaves post as Ukraine war drags on

Sep 3, 2022, 9:32 PM | Updated: Sep 5, 2022, 7:44 am

FILE - U.S. Ambassador to Russia John Sullivan speaks to the media in Moscow, Russia, June 28, 2021...

FILE - U.S. Ambassador to Russia John Sullivan speaks to the media in Moscow, Russia, June 28, 2021. Sullivan, ended his tenure as America's top diplomat in Moscow on Sunday, Sept. 4, 2022 after nearly three years, spanning the Trump and Biden administrations, and will retire after a lengthy career in government service, the embassy announced. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)

(AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. ambassador to Russia, John Sullivan, ended his tenure as America’s top diplomat in Moscow on Sunday after nearly three years, spanning the Trump and Biden administrations, and will retire from a lengthy career in government service.

His departure, which comes in the midst of an increasingly serious crisis over Russia’s war in Ukraine as well as disputes over detained Americans in Russia, had been expected this fall as he reached the usual length of time for U.S. ambassadors. But it was sped up due to family medical issue, according to people familiar with the matter who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the private nature of the situation.

“Ambassador Sullivan’s departure is planned and part of a normal diplomatic rotation,” the State Department said. “He has served a full tenure as U.S. ambassador to Russia, managing one of the most critical bilateral relationships in the world during unprecedented times.”

The department added: “The U.S. will continue to condemn unequivocally the Kremlin’s aggressive war against Ukraine and remain steadfast in our commitment to supporting Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

Since Russia invaded Ukraine in February, the war has slowed to a grind with both sides trading combat strikes and small advances in the east and south. Both Russian and Ukraine have seen thousands of troops killed and injured, and Russia’s bombardment of cities has killed countless innocent civilians.

Elizabeth Rood, the deputy chief of mission to Russia, will be the top U.S. diplomat in Moscow until a successor nominated by President Joe Biden replaces Sullivan.

A Boston native and big ice hockey fan who brought his skates and equipment when he left for Russia, Sullivan had returned to Moscow from a summer break just last week and had attended former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev’s memorial service on Saturday.

Sullivan took the helm of the Moscow embassy at a particularly difficult time in U.S.-Russia relations, which have only grown worse. He struggled to hold together a diplomatic mission dramatically reduced in staff as Washington and Moscow carried out an increasingly severe series of tit-for-tat expulsions.

Sullivan spoke frequently of his frustrations about deteriorating conditions for U.S. diplomats in Moscow, especially after Russian restrictions on American and local personnel forced major reductions in staffing.

His four-decade public service career included postings in Republican administrations as deputy secretary of state and senior positions in the departments of Justice, Defense and Commerce.

Sullivan was deputy secretary of state when he was nominated by President Donald Trump and confirmed by the Senate with unusually strong bipartisan support to be ambassador to Russia in December 2019. Biden asked him to remain in the post when Biden took office last year.

He had been the lead U.S. official in talks with Russia on counterterrorism and strategic security and testified in his Senate confirmation hearing that Russian efforts to undermine democracies must be combated.

Sullivan told senators that he would be “relentless” in confronting Russia over election interference, hostile moves against neighbors such as Georgia and Ukraine, human rights abuses and violations of arms control agreements.

His time as the State Department’s No. 2 official was not without controversy.

Sullivan was the one who delivered the news to Marie Yovanovitch, the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, that Trump had lost confidence in her and that she was being recalled early from the post.

Sullivan told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that he was given no other explanation for Yovanovitch’s removal and told her that he did not believe she had done anything to warrant her recall.

Asked why he did not oppose Yovanovitch’s ouster or speak out publicly on her behalf at the time, Sullivan said ambassadors serve at the pleasure of the president and can be removed with or without cause. He noted that his uncle, a former U.S. ambassador to Iran, had been recalled early from Tehran by the Carter administration for what the family believed to be unfair political reasons.

“When the president loses confidence in the ambassador, right or wrong, the ambassador goes,” Sullivan said.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Eugene and Linda Lamie, of Homerville, Ga., sit by the grave of their son U.S. Army Sgt. Gene Lamie...

Associated Press

Biden marks Memorial Day lauding generations of fallen US troops who ‘dared all and gave all’

President Joe Biden lauded the sacrifice of generations of U.S. troops who died fighting for their country as he marked Memorial Day with the traditional wreath-laying ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery.

11 hours ago

OpenAI's CEO Sam Altman, the founder of ChatGPT and creator of OpenAI gestures while speaking at Un...

Associated Press

ChatGPT maker downplays fears they could leave Europe over AI rules

OpenAI CEO Sam Altman on Friday downplayed worries that the ChatGPT maker could exit the European Union

1 day ago

File - Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai, left, and OpenAI CEO Sam Altman arrive to the White House for a ...

Associated Press

Regulators take aim at AI to protect consumers and workers

As concerns grow over increasingly powerful artificial intelligence systems like ChatGPT, the nation’s financial watchdog says it’s working to ensure that companies follow the law when they’re using AI.

3 days ago

FILE - A security surveillance camera is seen near the Microsoft office building in Beijing, July 2...

Associated Press

Microsoft: State-sponsored Chinese hackers could be laying groundwork for disruption

State-backed Chinese hackers have been targeting U.S. critical infrastructure and could be laying the technical groundwork for the potential disruption of critical communications between the U.S. and Asia during future crises, Microsoft said Wednesday.

4 days ago

FILE - President Joe Biden speaks in the East Room of the White House, May 17, 2023, in Washington....

Associated Press

White House unveils new efforts to guide federal research of AI

The White House on Tuesday announced new efforts to guide federally backed research on artificial intelligence

5 days ago

FILE - The Capitol stands in Washington D.C. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)Credit: ASSOCIATED...

Associated Press

What it would mean for the economy if the US defaults on its debt

If the debt crisis roiling Washington were eventually to send the United States crashing into recession, America’s economy would hardly sink alone.

6 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Internet Washington...

Major Internet Upgrade and Expansion Planned This Year in Washington State

Comcast is investing $280 million this year to offer multi-gigabit Internet speeds to more than four million locations.

Compassion International...

Brock Huard and Friends Rally Around The Fight for First Campaign

Professional athletes are teaming up to prevent infant mortality and empower women at risk in communities facing severe poverty.

Emergency Preparedness...

Prepare for the next disaster at the Emergency Preparedness Conference

Being prepared before the next emergency arrives is key to preserving businesses and organizations of many kinds.

SHIBA volunteer...

Volunteer to help people understand their Medicare options!

If you’re retired or getting ready to retire and looking for new ways to stay active, becoming a SHIBA volunteer could be for you!

safety from crime...

As crime increases, our safety measures must too

It's easy to be accused of fearmongering regarding crime, but Seattle residents might have good reason to be concerned for their safety.

Comcast Ready for Business Fund...

Ilona Lohrey | President and CEO, GSBA

GSBA is closing the disparity gap with Ready for Business Fund

GSBA, Comcast, and other partners are working to address disparities in access to financial resources with the Ready for Business fund.

US ambassador to Russia leaves post as Ukraine war drags on