Russian President Vladimir Putin has told the new U.S. ambassador to Moscow, Jon Huntsman, that he hopes badly strained ties will improve.
Receiving Huntsman's credentials at a Kremlin ceremony on October 3 that marked the start of the new envoy's tenure, Putin said that the current state of U.S.-Russia relations "cannot satisfy us."
"We advocate for constructive, predictable, and mutually advantageous cooperation," Putin said. "We are convinced that it should build upon the stringent adherence to the principles of equality, respect for national interests, and noninterference with each other's internal affairs."
He also offered his "utmost and sincere condolences" to the American people for the "horrendous tragedy" that happened in Las Vegas, where a mass shooting killed 59 people late on October 1.
The severe tension in bilateral ties stems in part from allegations that Putin violated that very principle: In January, the U.S. intelligence community said it found that Putin ordered an "influence campaign" targeting the 2016 presidential election in the United States.
At a confirmation hearing before a Senate panel on September 19, Huntsman said that there is "no question -- underline, no question -- that the Russian government interfered in the U.S. election last year. And Moscow continues to meddle in the democratic processes of our friends and allies."
Ahead of the ceremony, which also included new ambassadors from other countries, Putin's spokesman said the Kremlin hopes that with Huntsman as ambassador, the "American diplomatic mission in Moscow can make a weighty contribution to the restoration of our relations."
Spokesman Dmitry Peskov blamed the United States for the severe troubles in the relationship, asserting that Putin believes closer cooperation is in the interests of both countries and the world but that "it is impossible to realize those intentions on our own, without a partner."
"So far, there are problems with reciprocity," Peskov.
In addition to the alleged meddling in the election, ties between Washington and Moscow have also been frayed by deep discord over issues including Russia's seizure of Crimea from Kyiv's control, its support for separatists in war that has killed more than 10,000 people since 2014, and its military and diplomatic backing for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in a devastating war in the Middle Eastern country.
Huntsman takes over a diplomatic mission whose size has been reduced drastically after Russia ordered the United States to cut its embassy and consulate staff in Russia by 755 people, or by two-thirds, after the U.S. Congress approved legislation tightening sanctions against Russia.
Russian officials initially voiced confidence that Trump’s election would help improve ties, but those hopes appear to have faded substantially as the U.S. Justice Department and congressional committees investigate Moscow’s alleged interference in the election and seek to determine whether associates of Trump colluded with Russia.
Putin denies that Russia meddled in the election despite what U.S. officials say is powerful evidence. Trump, who repeatedly indicated during the campaign that he wanted relations with Russia to improve, denies any collusion.
Huntsman, a former governor of the U.S. state of Utah who at one point called for Trump to drop out of the presidential race, easily won U.S. Senate confirmation as ambassador last week. Now 57, he was ambassador to Singapore under President George H.W. Bush in 1992-93 and ambassador to China in 2009-11, under President Barack Obama, before returning to the United States to run for president in 2012.
With reporting by TASS, Interfax, Reuters, and AP