MOSCOW, February 4 (RIA Novosti) – US Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul announced Tuesday that he is planning to resign from his office and move back to the United States after this month's Sochi Olympics.
McFaul, who helped coordinate President Barack Obama’s move to reset tense relations between the two countries, said he decided to step down to reunite with his family, who returned to the US last year.
“Soon after the Olympics, I plan to rejoin my family in California. After more than five years working in the Obama administration, it is time to go home,” McFaul said in a LiveJournal post.
A longtime Stanford University professor, McFaul, 50, previously served as Obama’s point man on Russia before moving to Moscow in 2011.
His ambassadorship has been marred by increased anti-American sentiment in Russia. In 2012, Russia banned American families from adopting Russian children, and the United States Agency for International Development had to close its office in Moscow.
The White House's deputy national security adviser, Ben Rhodes, on Tuesday praised McFaul for helping foster commercial ties with Russia, advance US policies on the New START treaty, and provide assistance on Iran talks.
“President Obama is deeply grateful for Ambassador McFaul's extraordinary service over the last five years,” Rhodes said in the emailed statement.
Late last year, Russian media reports speculated on McFaul’s looming resignation, but the rumors didn’t receive official confirmation at that time.
McFaul said in his Tuesday blog post that he “will continue to work on some specific projects for President Obama and his administration.” He didn’t elaborate.
Updated with White House comment.