Ahead of Zelenskiy address, U.S. Senate backs new ambassador to Russia

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Ahead of Zelenskiy address, U.S. Senate backs new ambassador to Russia

By Patricia Zengerle

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The U.S. Senate on Wednesday confirmed Lynne Tracy as President Joe Biden’s nominee to be ambassador to Russia, hours before Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy was to give a rare wartime address to a joint meeting of Congress.

Tracy, a career diplomat and current ambassador to Armenia, will be the first woman to serve as U.S. ambassador to Russia. It was not immediately clear when she will assume the post, because Russia must agree to accept her.

“The United States needs an ambassador to represent us in Moscow,” said Senator Bob Menendez, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, noting that it was the 300th day of the Russian war on Ukraine as he urged support for Tracy.

Tracy was confirmed by an overwhelming 93-2. The two no votes came from Republican Senators Rand Paul and Mike Lee.

Washington has been sending a steady supply of weapons and economic assistance to Zelenskiy’s government as Ukraine fights Russian troops.

Biden announced Tracy’s nomination in September, weeks after the departure of John Sullivan, who had been appointed by former Republican President Donald Trump and was ambassador as Russia’s February invasion of Ukraine plunged relations to depths not seen since the Cold War.

A Russian speaker, Tracy served as deputy chief of mission in Moscow from 2014 to 2017.

Russia last week questioned Tracy’s suitability, suggesting she might feel more at home at a hardline think tank. Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said remarks by Tracy in the media and to the foreign relations committee showed that she saw tighter sanctions against Moscow as the way forward in bilateral relations. She said Tracy had also noted the need for contacts with the opposition and civil society.

Moscow has an ambassador in Washington, Anatoly Antonov.

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