Biden candidate for ambassador to Russia pledges to prioritize the release of prisoners

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Vehicles pass by the US Embassy in Moscow, Russia August 21, 2017. REUTERS/Grigory Dukor//File Photo

By Patricia Zengerle

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Joe Biden’s candidate for ambassador to Russia, Lynne Tracy, on Wednesday pledged to prioritize the release of detained Americans if she is confirmed to take up one of the posts. America’s most important and challenging diplomatic service.

“The plight of American citizens detained in Russia will be a top priority for me,” Tracy said during a confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which comes as Washington supplies weapons and other equipment. other assistance to Ukraine during its nine-month war with Russia. -prolonged invasion

Tracy, a career diplomat and now ambassador to Armenia, promised to visit American detainees, including basketball star Brittney Griner and former Marine Paul Whelan.

Biden announced Tracy’s nomination in September, weeks after the departure of John Sullivan, who was appointed by former Republican President Donald Trump and served as ambassador when Russia’s invasion of Ukraine pushed relations to an all-time low. seen since the Cold War.

“It’s hard to imagine a more difficult task for a professional diplomat,” said Democratic Senator Bob Menendez, chairman of the committee.

It is unclear when Tracy will take up the position, if she is confirmed as Russia must agree to take her in.

Moscow has an ambassador in Washington, Anatoly Antonov.

Tracy served as deputy head of the delegation in Moscow from 2014 to 2017. As a Russian speaker, she will be the first woman to serve as the US ambassador to Russia.

Several committee members indicated that they expect her to be confirmed by the entire Senate. Senator Rob Portman, who represented Tracy’s home state of Ohio and introduced her at the hearing, said: “She’s been tested, she’s qualified for excellence.

Senator Chris Van Hollen asked Tracy how negotiations with India and other countries were going on the proposed price ceiling for Russian oil. “We have had conversations around the globe,” she said, adding that “we continue to encourage major Russian energy buyers” to join the effort.

Western governments want to set a maximum price for Russian oil on the world market to limit Moscow’s ability to raise money for the war with Ukraine.

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