Russia’s ambassador to the United States, Sergey Kislyak, is a low-key veteran diplomat who associates say is one of the most unlikely diplomats to wind up in the center of controversy.
Kislyak, whose conversations with close associates of U.S. President Donald Trump have repeatedly embarrassed the new administration, is 66 years old, married, with an adult daughter.
He has been a part of the Soviet and Russian foreign ministries since 1977. His posts have included the Soviet mission to the United Nations; Russia’s Permanent Representative to NATO; Russian ambassador to Belgium; and Deputy Minster of Foreign Affairs.
He has been Russian ambassador to the U.S. since 2008 and can frequently be seen casually strolling around Washington.
Michael McFaul, who was U.S. ambassador to Russia from 2012 to 2014, calls Kislyak “a very successful ambassador who is “underrated” in Washington.
“I am impressed by him,” McFaul told a forum at George Washington University on Friday. “When I was in the government, sometimes he would drive me nuts because he was so active in developing relationships with individuals across our government. “
Observers describe Kislyak as friendly and say he likes to open the Russian Embassy for dinners and teas for journalists and Washington officials.
Kislyak once lamented that while Russia and the U.S. “were able to to end the Cold War … we weren’t able to build post-Cold War peace.”
He is also known for forcefully defending his government’s positions. For example, he has denounced the mass demonstrations that ousted Ukraine’s Russia-backed president, Viktor Yanukovych, in 2014 as the “unconstitutional forceful overthrow” of an elected government.
Like other Russian officials, Kislyak has also blamed Kyiv for the fighting between government forces and Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine, which has killed more than 9,750 people.
“What is portrayed as a Russian aggression in reality is a war of the government of Ukraine against their own people. So I would advise our friends not to misrepresent what is happening on the ground: government forces killing Ukrainian citizens. Nothing else, and nothing more,” he said.
VOA’s Nike Ching at the U.S. State Department contributed to this report.