US ambassador in Kazan: ''wonderful jamming'', meeting with Minnikhanov and lunch with Izambayeva

Jon Huntsman denied meetings with candidates for the presidency of Russia and urged not to speculate about the elections

Ambassador of the United States of America to the Russian Federation Jon Huntsman came to Kazan with an official visit on 25 February. It's been his first trip to the republic, the programme already had a visit to the Kazan CHPP-3 and Innopolis, meeting with Tatarstan President Rustam Minnikhanov. Realnoe Vremya studied the first day of Jon Huntsman's visit and remembered what US ambassadors to Russia had already visited the republic.

Musical ambassador

US Ambassador to Russia Jon Huntsman arrived in Kazan on 25 February with an official visit and was to stay in the capital of Tatarstan until 27 February. The diplomat had a wide programme on 26 February. But the acquaintance with Kazan started in the same evening he arrived in the city. One of Ziferblats of the city where he played with Icebreaker Pushkin group remembered his visit. Users of social networks noted such a movement: ''A wonderful jamming with the ambassador of America in Russia'', ''Here is America!'', ''Jon is also a musician''.

Very Jon Huntsman already liked the reception at the airport, he immediately shared his impressions of it. He said he was glad to visit Kazan for the first time and looked forward to seeing how Russians and Americans worked together and achieved success in Tatarstan.

Jon Huntsman already liked the reception at the airport. Photo:

To look at the miraculous turbine

Jon Huntsman also visited the Kazan CHPP-3 in which he saw a new unit that was upgraded by General Electric's technology. It's known General Electric invested €2 billion rubles in the technology used to modernise the unit of the CHPP-3. A record energy conversion efficiency in the steam and gas cycle is its outstanding feature.

The Kazan CHPP-3 is the biggest plant in the capital of Tatarstan. This year the thermal power plant will celebrate its 50 th jubilee. It's been part of TAIF GC's energy company – TGC-16. At a meeting with journalists, Jon Huntsman noted the republic was open to investors and trade. Examples of successful experience are always needed, while the example with TAIF is an example of successful experience.

The ambassador admitted the partnership between General Electric and TAIF was an example of the driver of the economic development and blossom both in Kazan and the USA. He added that we all won when working together.

What's more, the ambassador also visited the Tatarstan Investment Development Agency and had a meeting in the Tatarstan Ministry of Industry and Trade. On 27 February, he was going to go to Innopolis and Sviyazhsk.

Meeting with Minnikhanov

We'll note that unlike his predecessor John Tefft, who visited Kazan in 2015, Huntsman had a chance to meet Tatarstan President Rustam Minnikhanov. Boring lines of the press release just say that ''the sides discussed the cooperation in the existing Russian-American relations… Rustam Minnikhanov briefly told the ambassador about the social and economic development of the region, presented several more topical investment projects fulfilled in the republic.''

The fact that Minnikhanov met with the USA ambassador means that he is really a behemoth. Photo:

Russian political experts noted the head of Tatarstan for the organisation of the visit with the American ambassador amid the demonstrative refusal of governors of other regions from such meetings. But they didn't give Rustam Minnikhanov the role of negotiator on withdrawal of Russian enterprises from sanction lists as a popular Telegram channel did.

''I think it's fine he met. The Kremlin is, of course, told about such trips of the ambassador. The most stupid thing was not a long time ago when some heads refused to meet the American ambassador by demonstrating their high loyalty and hyper-patriotism. I think it's idiotism. In general, they need to meet, talk, develop relations, aspire for mutual understanding. And the fact that Minnikhanov met with the USA ambassador means that he is really a behemoth. He doesn't need cheap PR like ''I won't meet with their ambassador as a patriot of my country while the USA is putting pressure on Russia''. So this meeting is a normal working process, demonstration of mutual interest and respect – it's what is in a high deficit in relations of the two countries, Russia and America,'' political expert Konstantin Kalachev noted.

''Such meetings are always agreed with the Kremlin, of course. This is why there is an idea, meaning we don't know in it. As for the role of negotiator on withdrawal from sanction lists, Minnikhanov wasn't included in this list, Minnikhanov shouldn't withdraw from it. Without doubt, he is a very talented, interesting, original person. Many problems were solved with his help not only inside Tatarstan, but also Dagestan turned to his talents. Relationship with Muslim countries was arranged. But it's not the case when the life of the whole country changes with the name of one person,'' political expert Andrey Kolyadin added.

He didn't meet with candidates for presidency

One of the most popular questions that journalists asked on 25 February was about a meeting of the ambassador with candidates for the presidency of Russia. The diplomat explained he had met with nobody and he hadn't have such contacts.

The ambassador replied that his prime goal was to meet with representatives of power, only then he was going to meet with representatives of other circles. Jon Huntsman said they were often accused of meddling in elections, but he couldn't imagine how it was possible because they appreciated their relations. Such a war of words could just bring to an extra escalation.

The ambassador was in its old classrooms of the Kazan Federal University. Photo:

Meeting with Izambayeva

On 26 February, he visited the Kazan Federal University and was in its old classrooms. The official account of the US embassy to Russia says that Tatarstan and USA have a long history of academic and cultural exchanges, and this youth assure him that they will have a wonderful future.

Jon Huntsman also mentioned the problem of HIV and shared lunch with Svetlana Izambayeva who chairs the self-titled non-commercial fund that helps adults and kids with this disease. The ambassador noted it was an honour for him to know about the work of the organisation.

According to Jon Huntsman, it's an example that inspires, it's a labour that proves that access to modern treatment methods allow any person to live a full life and make a contribution to the development of the country.

Below this post, Svetlana Izambayeva thanked him and hoped for further cooperation. She explained to Realnoe Vremya later that just one hour was given for the meeting, while a pile of issues was to be discussed.

''I told him about the fund, what we do, what projects we have. He confirmed our projects were important and unique. He said he would help with writing letters of recommendation that could come in handy while looking for sponsors and added we could always meet with him in Moscow. As for the experience of the USA in this sphere, I've been there and told him about their situation, compared how much we left behind, in fact,'' Svetlana Izambayeva commented on the meeting.

She added they talked about how she managed to come to the organisation of the fund. ''In answer to his question whether I've had more free time now, I said 'yes', though not immediately. I was afraid to return to the city in 2015, to think what others will think, that people will be afraid. We talked a lot about the attitude to the disease that needs to be changed, why HIV continued spreading,'' the director of the non-commercial fund put examples.

Jon Huntsman also mentioned the problem of HIV. Photo:

History of relations

Jon Huntsman became USA ambassador to Russia last September by substituting John Tefft. Jon Huntsman's predecessor also visited Tatarstan in 2015. He met with students of Fulbright summer school students in the Kazan National Research Technological University, saw capabilities of Alabuga SEZ. Then head of the CRPF in the Tatarstan State Council Khafiz Mirgalimov commented on this visit abruptly:

''Hillary Clinton visited our Tatarstan as a guest, had a nice trip – she put a scarf on, praised Russia and Tatarstan. What's she saying now? Russia is the main enemy of the USA. In my opinion, international forces are trying to divide our republic into national, interreligious and other parameters. Those explosions that took place, the murder of the deputy mufti, arson of the church are links of one chain. The USA ambassadors don't come without a reason. As for invitation, I wasn't invited. If I were, I wouldn't go. I have many things to do. And he has people to accompany.''

Hillary Clinton also came to Kazan in autumn 2008 as head of the US State Department and later really thanked the Tatarstan side for the reception.

US ambassadors to Russia visited Tatarstan in 1994 (Thomas Pickering), 1999 and 2011 (James Collins), 2002 and 2005 (Alexander Vershbow), 2006 (William Burns), 2009 (John Byerley).

By Yulia Kosolapkina, Vasilya Shirshova