SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — The senior U.S. Senator from Utah plans to board a plane for Russia on Thursday, but the trip doesn’t come without controversy.
Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, received a visa to travel this week. He’ll be gone thru Sunday.
“Senator Lee will travel to Russia from September 5th to September 8th,” explained Lee’s spokesman, Conn Carroll. “During his trip, Senator Lee will meet with U.S. and Russian government officials and business leaders.”
According to Carroll, the U.S. Embassy in Russia invited Lee on the trip.
Former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman Jr., who announced that he’ll be leaving his post as American ambassador to Russia in October, heads up that agency.
Lee in Russia: an open dialogue
Lee’s spokesman says there are a number of things on the agenda for him to discuss with Russian leaders.
“Trade and military relations, religious liberty, and other issues important to both countries,” he said.
The goal is to open avenues of communication and strengthen overall relations between the two countries.
“It’s important for the United States to maintain a strong and open dialogue with the Russian Federation in order to make progress on matters that are central to American peace and prosperity,” explained Carroll.
No Russia trip for Lee’s colleagues
It remains to be seen if the trip creates any friction in the Senate Chamber.
That’s because the Kremlin denied visas to enter Russia to U.S. Senators Ron Johnson, R-Wisc., and Chris Murphy, D-Conn., both members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Murphy said in a statement: “Unfortunately, the Russian government is further isolating their country by blocking our visit and several others in recent months.”
To this point, Murphy has voiced his support of Senator Lee’s visit.
“I support him,” he told MSNBC in a recent interview.
One specific government leader that Lee will meet with is Russian Federation Council Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Konstantin Kosachev. TASS, Russia’s state-run news agency, reports that the two will sit-down on Friday.
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