WASHINGTON -- The U.S. State Department has confirmed that Aleksandr Bortnikov, the head of the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB), will be part of a Russian delegation at the Obama administration's antiextremism conference in Washington.
U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Russia informed the United States about its addition of Bortnikov and others to its delegation for the Summit on Countering Violent Extremism on the evening of February 17.
Bortnikov has been blacklisted for travel in the European Union and Canada under sanctions imposed over Moscow's support for pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine.
But he is not on the list of Russians sanctioned by the United States.
Psaki defended Russia's participation at a daily briefing with reporters, but noted that the two countries have differences on Ukraine. "Violent extremism and terrorism are serious problems that affect communities around the world, including Russia. As you know, there are a range of issues that we work together on," she said.
She said that the delegation was a "factual detail," and added that the United States welcomed Russia's participation in the summit.
Visits to Washington by high-level Russian officials have become rare amid worsening tensions over the war in Ukraine and rounds of sanctions imposed by the United States.
The FSB, the successor to the KGB, said Bortnikov will inform the forum about Russia's approach to fighting extremism.
"Bortnikov will inform forum attendees about the national anti-extremism system used in Russia and emphasize the importance of the government's central role in countering the terrorist ideology," an FSB spokesperson said.
The United States has criticized Russia for what it sees as its overly broad use of laws against extremism against political opponents and religious minorities.
The U.S. State Department said in its 2013 Human Rights Report on Russia that the Russian government had used its "law against extremism" to "harass, pressure, discredit, and/or prosecute individuals and entities that had voiced criticism of the government."
The summit began on February 17 and continues through February 19, and follows terror shootings in Paris and Copenhagen.
The State Department will host an array of top U.S. and international officials on February 19 to discuss extremism.
With reporting by Interfax