MOSCOW -- U.S. Ambassador to Moscow Jon Huntsman says he has experienced "frustration" due to the reluctance of some Russian officials to meet with him because of the state of affairs between the two countries.
"Our relationship is not in a good place right now, and it is a source of frustration," Huntsman said in a May 24 interview with Current Time TV.
"The fact [is] that I can’t get in a lot of doors to meet some Russian leaders…I’d like to see more Russian leaders.
"I’d like to see more Russian opinion leaders, and they’ve been instructed to stay away and not interact with me…Some of them do, but others don’t," he said.
"When I go to places and am not able to see regional or oblast governors, I get a little frustrated," he added.
Huntsman said that during his eight months in Russia he has met with U.S. businesses operating in the country and that many companies ask when relations will improve between the United States and Russia.
"I say to them: 'We have some big issues to resolve, and they aren’t easy to resolve. But we have to go to work on them, as we are,'" he said.
'Pretty Significant' Differences
Huntsman acknowledged that U.S. sanctions imposed on Moscow for various reasons, including over its actions in Ukraine and for alleged election meddling in the United States in 2016, still divide the two countries.
"What would be important would be to have a conversation to address the underlying reasons for those sanctions," he said, noting that the European Union has also placed financial restrictions on Russia.
"On Ukraine, are we able to deal with violations of international law in Donbas and eastern Ukraine? "That should be addressed. There are a lot of parties that would like to see it addressed," he said. “If addressed, I suspect the sanctions may be addressed as well.”
"Some of political differences are pretty significant, and we need to narrow the gap on some of those issues," Huntsman added.
The United States, the EU, and other countries imposed sanctions on Russia after it seized and annexed Ukraine's Crimea region and began backing armed separatists in eastern Ukraine in 2014.
The United States has also slapped sanctions on Moscow for its alleged interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election and other "malign activity around the globe."
Still, President Donald Trump has expressed a desire to improve relations with Russia, highlighting Moscow's ability to assist in solving pressing matters involving Syria, Iran, and North Korea.
Huntsman was a former governor of the U.S. state of Utah who at one point called for Trump to drop out of the presidential race before being nominated by the president to serve in Moscow.
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 unsuccessfully run for president in 2012.
Current Time TV is a Russian-language TV channel run by RFE/RL in cooperation with VOA.