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Russia gives green light for next U.S. ambassador

John Tefft meets the media after visiting jailed Ukrainian opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko at a hospital in Kharkiv May 14, 2012. Reuters/Dmitry Neymryok
John Tefft meets the media after visiting jailed Ukrainian opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko at a hospital in Kharkiv May 14, 2012. Reuters/Dmitry Neymryok

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia has given the green light for career diplomat John Tefft to be appointed U.S. ambassador to Moscow, an aide to President Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday.

Russian officials say privately that Tefft, a former ambassador to Ukraine, Georgia and Lithuania, is not entirely to Moscow's liking, but his candidacy has been approved following calls by Putin for better relations with the United States.

Ties are at a low point, particularly because of the crisis in Ukraine. The previous ambassador, Michael McFaul, left Russia in February after two years marked by controversy and tension.

Confirming that Russia had approved Tefft's candidacy, Kremlin foreign policy adviser Yuri Ushakov told reporters: "The agreement is done. This is a high-ranking diplomat."

"I will leave without comment how he acted in Georgia and Ukraine. Everybody knows that well. But it is also a fact that he has very good professional preparation, he has worked in Russia and knows our country and speaks Russian," he said.

Tefft was the United States' ambassador to Georgia during the former Soviet republic's five-day war with Russia in 2008 and the U.S. envoy to Ukraine for nearly four years until July last year. He was deputy chief of mission in Moscow in the second half of the 1990s.

Washington imposed sanctions on Russia after it annexed the Crimea peninsula from Ukraine in March, a month after the overthrow of a Ukrainian president sympathetic to Moscow.

Putin said in a message last week marking U.S. Independence Day that he wanted better ties with Washington but that Moscow must be treated as an equal partner.

(Reporting by Darya Korsunskaya, Writing by Gabriela Baczynska, Editing by Timothy Heritage)

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