Russia’s Ambassador to the US Says He Hasn’t Talked to Putin in Almost 5 Years

But despite not actually talking to Putin, Antonov defended the Russian president’s mindset.
Russian Ambassador to the United States Anatoly Antonov speaks at the Woodrow Wilson Institute on November 18, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
Russian Ambassador to the United States Anatoly Antonov speaks at the Woodrow Wilson Institute on November 18, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

If anyone knows what Russian President Vladimir Putin is thinking about his country’s relationship with the United States, it’s probably not the Russian ambassador to the United States. 

Anatoly Antonov, Russia’s top diplomat in the U.S. since August 2017, told Politico Monday that he hasn’t spoken with Putin since shortly before he came to the United States—even as relations between the two powers have almost completely broken down in the two months since Russia invaded Ukraine. 

Advertisement

Antonov downplayed his apparently nonexistent communication with Putin but expressed worry about where relations between the two countries were headed. 

“Frankly, we are in a blockade,” Antonov told Politico. “When I came to Washington, my idea was to use the word ‘improvement’ to describe [Putin’s] goals for the relationship. Now I prefer to use the word ‘stabilization.’”

Within the past year, around 100 Russian embassy employees in D.C. have been expelled from the country, according to Politico—including Antonov’s deputy, Sergey Trepelkov, who was expelled after the invasion in February. Around 170 staffers remain. Things are not much better at the U.S. embassy in Moscow: Nearly 90 percent of the staff has left, with about 130 people remaining, including U.S. Ambassador John J. Sullivan.

The Kremlin did not immediately respond to a request for comment from VICE News on Antonov’s comments.

Antonov was recalled to Russia last March for three months after Biden said Russia would “pay a price” for interfering in U.S. elections, but apparently he did not meet with Putin during the three months he was home. Sullivan, a Republican Trump appointee whom president Joe Biden has kept in the post, briefly left Russia in April 2021 amid Russia’s buildup on the Ukraine border and U.S. sanctions against the country, but he also returned to the country in June. 

Putin’s war has faced repeated, unexpected failures amid fierce resistance from the Ukrainian military and citizenry and more than $2.5 billion in military assistance to Ukraine from the U.S. But despite not actually talking to Putin, Antonov defended the Russian president’s mindset.

“He knows everything,” Antonov told Politico. “He is able to study thoroughly each report that he gets from various services, and, just only after thoroughly studying these reports, he makes decisions taking into account the members of the security council of the Russian Federation.”

Want the best of VICE News straight to your inbox? Sign up here.