Jon Huntsman, former ambassador to Russia, banned from returning

The past Utah governor was one of 500 Americans sanctioned by the Kremlin on Friday as the U.S. continues to penalize Russia for invading Ukraine.

Former Utah governor and ambassador Jon Huntsman Jr. joined the growing list of Americans banned from traveling to Russia — one of his previous diplomatic homes.

The one-time U.S. representative in Russia was one of 500 people the country announced sanctions against Friday. Also included in the lengthy list were former President Barack Obama, members of Congress from both parties and John Tefft, another former ambassador to Russia. Late-night talk show hosts Stephen Colbert, Jimmy Kimmel and Seth Meyers were also on the list.

Hours before Russia’s foreign ministry released its newest sanctions, the U.S. imposed harsher penalties on Russian citizens and entities that “support its war effort” during the country’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine.

Although Russia’s announcement did not specify why Huntsman was added to the list, it said in a statement that the action was “in response to the regularly imposed anti-Russian sanctions by the (Joe) Biden administration.”

(Maksim Bogodvid | Sputnik via AP) U.S. Ambassador to Russia Jon Huntsman and his wife Mary Kaye Huntsman visit the Annunciation Cathedral as they tour the Kazan Kremlin on Feb. 26, 2018. The former ambassador was one of 500 Americans banned from traveling to Russia on Friday.

Then-President Donald Trump appointed Huntsman ambassador to Russia in 2017. Two years later, he resigned before announcing another Utah gubernatorial bid, which he lost to Gov. Spencer Cox.

In his resignation letter to Trump, he wrote, “Going forward, we must continue to hold Russia accountable when its behavior threatens us and our allies.”

Huntsman continued, “While times are tough, it is critical that we increase exchanges of people and maintain channels for dialogue on issues of national interest — combatting terrorism, ensuring verifiable arms control, insisting that Russia respect the sovereignty of its neighbors, and advocating for a more responsive system of governance that includes rule of law and respect for human rights.”

The former governor and a spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment.

Huntsman is not the first Utah politician to be targeted for sanctions by the Russian government. All but one member of Utah’s congressional delegation, Sen. Mike Lee, were barred from entering the country last May. Lee was later added to the list in November.

Others included are the late Sen. Orrin Hatch, former Utah U.S. Attorney Brett Tolman and senior U.S. District Court Judge Dale Kimball, who once sentenced and ordered deported a Russian citizen for smuggling F-16 fighter jet technical manuals to Moscow, the Standard-Examiner reported.

Editor’s note • Jon Huntsman Jr. is a brother of Paul Huntsman, chairman of the nonprofit Salt Lake Tribune’s board of directors.