The veteran Russian diplomat at the center of much of the FBI investigation into Moscow’s meddling in the U.S. presidential election and its aftermath is stepping down after nearly a decade as ambassador.

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WASHINGTON — Remarkably fresh despite the tropical heat, Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak was doing what he does best: hobnobbing in a room full of diplomats and dignitaries.

Only the setting was unusual for the most famous — or infamous — foreign envoy assigned to Washington in decades. He was in Cancún, Mexico, last week on the sidelines of a meeting of the Organization of American States, a regional body.

What in the world was Kislyak doing there?

“I am representing Russia,” Kislyak told the Los Angeles Times.

But he won’t be doing that much longer, at least not in the United States.

The veteran Russian diplomat at the center of much of the FBI investigation into Moscow’s meddling in the U.S. presidential election and its aftermath is stepping down after nearly a decade as ambassador.

It’s unclear whether he is retiring. The Kremlin says it’s a routine rotation. But Kislyak had been widely reported to be destined for a senior post at the United Nations.

Instead, he told the Times, he thinks he will just go back to Russia.

“It’s been 17 years,” Kislyak said, referring to his current stint and an earlier, eight-year assignment to the Russian mission at the U.N. and the Russian Embassy in Washington at a more junior level. “My wife wants to go home.”

Including a posting in Brussels, his career as a diplomat spanned the turbulence of the Cold War, the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, followed by the rise of President Vladimir Putin and growing tension with the Obama administration.

Then came the U.S. election last year.

Kislyak’s meetings with several of President Donald Trump’s top campaign aides or surrogates have come under intense scrutiny as a special counsel investigates whether they improperly cooperated with Russian hacking of emails or other efforts to interfere with the U.S. election.

Trump’s national-security adviser, retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, was forced to resign in February for misleading the White House about his conversations with Kislyak. Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from supervising the Russia inquiry after it came to light that he had failed to disclose his own meetings with Kislyak last year.

Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, met with Kislyak in December at Trump Tower. The Russian ambassador then arranged for him to meet Sergey Gorkov, a Putin ally who heads a Russian state-owned bank that is subject to U.S. sanctions.

The FBI reportedly is reviewing those meetings. Kushner has offered, through his attorney, to testify to Congress and answer questions.

Perhaps the ambassador’s most jarring meeting was in the Oval Office.

On May 10, a day after firing FBI Director James Comey, who was heading the Russia investigation, Trump welcomed Kisylak and his boss, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who was visiting, in for a chat.

The White House had barred U.S. media from the meeting. But Lavrov brought a Tass news-agency photographer, who was quick to post photos showing Trump beaming and the two Russians laughing.

Leaked accounts later indicated that Trump revealed classified intelligence to the pair about a threat to aviation. Trump also described Comey, who was heading the FBI’s inquiry into Russian interference in the election, as “crazy, a real nut job,” according to the leaks.

Kislyak, 66, known for his portly presence and jowly visage, found himself under an increasingly uncomfortable spotlight. CNN quoted unnamed U.S. officials calling him a spymaster.

His tenure has seen U.S. relations with Russia plummet to a post-Cold War low. In December, in a delayed response to the Russian hacking, President Barack Obama expelled 35 Russian diplomats — said to be spies — from Washington and New York.

Obama also ordered closed two Russian-owned compounds — one on New York’s Long Island Sound and the other on Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay — that Moscow said were used for weekend getaways and that Washington said were used for espionage.

Despite the controversy, Kislyak is frequently described as an affable, even jovial, envoy who has made friends from the halls of university think tanks to Washington’s wainscoted salons.

The state-run Sputnik news service has reported that Kislyak’s successor in Washington would probably be Anatoly Antonov, a 30-year veteran of the Russian Foreign Ministry.

Russia story retracted

CNN on Monday retracted a story about a supposed investigation into a pre-inaugural meeting between President Donald Trump’s associate Anthony Scaramucci and Kirill Dmitriev, whose Russian Direct Investment Fund guides investments by U.S. entities in Russia.

The story posted Thursday on CNN’s website said Senate investigators are looking into the meeting. Scaramucci, in the story, said he exchanged pleasantries in a restaurant with Dmitriev on Jan. 16.

The report also said that two Democratic senators wanted to know whether Scaramucci had indicated in the meeting whether sanctions against Russia would be lifted, a decision that could impact the investment fund.

On Friday night, CNN removed the story from its website and disabled links, saying it did not meet the news organization’s standards.

CNN apologized to Scaramucci.