Washington • U.S. Ambassador to Russia Jon Huntsman will attend an economic forum this month that also includes a Russian oligarch currently under sanctions by the United States.
Huntsman, a former Utah governor and now America’s top envoy in Moscow, will appear at the St. Petersburg Economic Forum on May 25. Viktor Vekselberg, who was hit, along with his holding company, Renova, with U.S. sanctions last month, is also slated to appear.
The State Department said that while Huntsman is attending, he does not have a speaking role.
“His attendance is consistent with the approach he has taken since his confirmation: People-to-people exchanges and private interactions are an important way to show that our disagreements are with the government of Russia, not with its people,” a State Department spokesman said Wednesday.
The spokesman continued, “The United States has legitimate, serious concerns about Russian government’s behavior. We will not hesitate to use every appropriate opportunity to convey our concerns as we engage with Russia.”
Vekselberg, who will appear on a panel on U.S.-Russian relations, is linked to a $500,000 payment to a company set up by President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen, who is under fire for paying hush money to Stormy Daniels, an adult film star who claims to have had an affair with Trump a decade ago.
Huntsman, who previously served as U.S. ambassador to China and to Singapore, explained his participation in the economic forum in a video posted by the embassy on Twitter.
“We have a lot of American businesses who are going to be there,” Huntsman said in English with Russian subtitles on the screen. “It’s a very important time to talk about the future economic relationship between the United States and Russia.”
Former Gov. Jon Huntsman is a brother of Paul Huntsman, publisher and owner of The Salt Lake Tribune.
Correction: May 16, 9:44 a.m. >> An earlier version of this story misstated the role Ambassador Jon Huntsman will play at the forum.