The intensely strained relations between the Kremlin and the White House could be set for a relative thaw, with the Russian ambassador to the United States heading to Washington as part of the outcome of a recent meeting between Russia’s President Vladimir Putin and his American counterpart Joe Biden.
The plane transporting Anatoly Antonov, who was recalled in March for consultations, took off at 9:20 a.m. (0620 GMT) from Moscow’s Cheremetievo airport for New York on Sunday, according to reports by Russian news agencies.
“Given the results of the meeting between the two presidents, I am counting on constructive work with my American colleagues to build equal and pragmatic relations,” Antonov told the Ria Novosti agency before boarding the flight.
“There is a lot of work to be done. We are counting on progress,” Antonov said, adding that he was in an “optimistic mood” ahead of his return to Washington.
Putin and Biden agreed on returning their respective ambassadors to Washington and Moscow during talks in Geneva on Wednesday, a first summit between the two presidents that they both described as pragmatic rather than friendly.
The Geneva summit, which took place following long US-Russian negotiations over its timing and location, invoked memories of the Cold War summit between US president Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in the Swiss city in 1985.
The Putin-Biden summit was aimed at defusing tensions and settling disputes between Washington and Moscow over a range of controversial issues, particularity after Russia formally designated the United States an “unfriendly” state last month, barring Washington’s embassy from employing Russian nationals.
Over the past six years, the US has imposed waves of sanctions against Russia, including over alleged meddling in its 2016 and 2020 presidential elections and the recent jailing of opposition figure Alexei Navalny.
Diplomatic relations deteriorated in March, when Biden branded Putin a “killer,” prompting Russia to recall its ambassador to Washington for consultations. The US also recalled its ambassador John Sullivan from Moscow in April.
More recently, tensions escalated over the Russian-speaking Donbass region of Ukraine, where Ukrainian troops and pro-Russia forces have been fighting since 2014.
Kiev and its Western allies accuse Moscow of having a hand in the crisis. Moscow, however, denies the allegations.