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John Sullivan, U.S. Ambassador to Russia, during a briefing in Moscow in 2015. Photo: Anton Novoderezhkin/TASS via Getty Images

The State Department said Monday that the U.S. ambassador to Russia, John Sullivan, will now be returning to the United States this week before returning to Moscow "in the coming weeks."

Why this matters: The statement, from a State Department spokesperson, comes just hours after Axios reported that Sullivan had indicated he intended to stand his ground and stay in Russia after the Kremlin “advised” him to return home to talk with his team.

  • The Russians did not forcibly expel Sullivan as they did with 10 other U.S. diplomats in retaliation for President Biden's sanctions last week.
  • "Ambassador Sullivan will be returning to the U.S. this week to visit his family and meet with members of the new administration with whom he has not had a chance to consult since he agreed to continue serving in his post indefinitely," a State Department spokesperson told Axios Monday night.
  • "He will return to Moscow in the coming weeks."

Between the lines: There's a lot we don't know, yet, about the circumstances surrounding this decision.

  • Biden is handling a complicated and increasingly dangerous situation with Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is amassing troops around Ukraine.
  • Biden announced Russia sanctions but also dropped U.S. plans to send Navy ships to the Black Sea to deter Putin’s aggression against Ukraine.
  • And Putin has accepted Biden's invitation to address a virtual climate change summit on Thursday.
  • Biden's team is also exploring the possibility of a summit between the two leaders later this year.

Go deeper

Scoop: U.S. ambassador refuses Kremlin push to leave Russia

U.S. Ambassador to Russia John Sullivan. Photo: Anton Novoderezhkin/TASS via Getty Images

The United States ambassador to Russia is refusing to leave the country after the Kremlin "advised" him to return home following new Biden administration sanctions, two sources briefed on the situation tell Axios.

Why it matters: John Sullivan, a respected diplomat who President Biden has, so far, retained from the Trump era, is at the center of one of the most important early tests of Biden's resolve.

Updated Apr 20, 2021 - World

Scoop: Leaked Ukraine memo reveals scope of Russia's aggression

Russian President Vladimir Putin visits a military exposition in Sevastopol, Crimea, in Jan. 2020. Photo: Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images

Russia has been holding last-minute military exercises near commercial shipping lanes in the Black Sea that threaten to strangle Ukraine's economy, according to an internal document from Ukraine's ministry of defense reviewed by Axios.

Why it matters: With the eyes of the world on the massive buildup of troops in eastern Ukraine, the leaked memo shows Russian forces escalating their presence on all sides of the Ukrainian border.

Apr 19, 2021 - World

Russia expels Czech diplomats after explosion linked to Skripal suspects

Czech police officers detain a pro-Russia demonstrator outside the Russian Embassy in Prague on Saturday. Photo: Michal Cizek/AFP via Getty Images

Officials in Moscow announced Sunday that 20 Czech diplomats had 72 hours to leave Russia, after the EU nation accused Russian operatives of being behind a deadly ammunition depot explosion in 2014.

Why it matters: The action, which came a day after the Czech government expelled 18 Russian diplomats over the blast, marks the latest escalation in what's become the worst tension between Russia and Western nations since the Cold War.

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