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Lavrov on Sessions row: Ambassador Kislyak ‘simply doing his job’

Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has weighed into the row concerning Russian ambassador Kislyak’s conversations with Jeff Sessions and General Flynn.

The US media as well as some Democrats, certain officials of the previous Obama administration, and certain members of the US intelligence community, have purported to see something sinister in these conversations and, as my colleague Sergey Gladysh has reported, have even suggested – outrageously – that ambassador Kislyak is a spy.

Russia undoubtedly has spies in Washington, but it is a certainty that Kislyak is not one of them.

On the contrary by meeting with senior officials – both of the outgoing Obama administration and of the incoming Trump administration – Kislyak was simply doing his job, establishing high level contacts with US officials, putting Russia’s case to them, finding out their views, and reporting back to Moscow about them.

An ambassador is not carrying out his duties if he limits himself to his embassy and never goes outside it.  As Lavrov correctly pointed out, US ambassador Tefft in Moscow regularly does all the same things in Moscow that Kislyak does in Washington, and no one in Russia calls him a spy

Kislyak is accused of talking to American politicians who were in opposition to the administration of then-President Barack Obama. That is the essence of these accusations, to be honest.  We don’t want to and we won’t ape [the American approach towards Kislyak].  If such a principle has been applied to scrutinize activity of John Tefft and his contacts, we could see quite an ‘amusing’ picture…..Relationships are maintained in the form of meetings, talks, contacts with both executive officials [from the current administration] and with politicians, public figures, non-governmental organizations. This practice has never been disputed

What Lavrov is saying is obviously right and has never been disputed.

As it happens, if the Russians really wanted to conduct covert contacts with the Trump campaign Kislyak – who as Russia’s ambassador is always in the public eye, and whose every move is closely watched by US intelligence – is the last person they would choose to conduct them.

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