Live Updates: Russia’s War in Ukraine

A senior State Department official told reporters on Tuesday that Russia would “absolutely not” go back to the pre-war status quo.

The official did not speak explicitly about the future of diplomatic relations with Russia, noting that they were already tense before the war that began in February. He said US Ambassador to Russia John Sullivan talks with the Russian Foreign Ministry less frequently than before, but there is still contact on the US embassy’s “staffing crisis” and the issues of detained Americans.

“This is a frequent topic several times a week on behalf of various detainees, not only the most high-profile ones, which are obviously Paul Whelan and Brittany Griner, but there are other Americans who have been detained there who are similar. level of treatment. As does any US citizen who has been detained in a foreign country,” the official said.

The official also pointed out how challenging it is to work with the Russians on the issue of detained Americans, as the Russians put in place complex procedures that prevent any quick contact with detainees.

“Oh, well, we moved the detainee X last week. He is on the other side of Moscow and you will need a different form in triplicate, but the office that issued it is closed until next Thursday. But if you come after five o’clock on Friday, maybe we will take care of you, but only bring blue pens.”

The official said Sullivan “has not worked with the Russian government on Ukraine’s policy since mid-February.”

The official spoke of the commercial impact of the war in Russia, noting that there were more than 1,000 US companies that did business in Russia last year and “that’s a fraction of it now.”

The official said the US ambassador had previously done a lot in Russia to help American businesses that have been in trouble with regulatory or potentially criminal cases. He added that Sullivan had “considerable talks” with the trade and industry minister and that they “developed a very good relationship.” The official said the results were often not positive, but “issues were taken seriously and sometimes we got good results, more often we didn’t, but it has all stopped.”