MOSCOW (Reuters) – Anatoly Antonov, Russia’s ambassador to the United States, has said his assignment is coming to an end, a move that would pave the way for Moscow to send a new envoy to Washington at a time when relations are at their worst in decades.

The United States and Russia are at odds over Moscow’s war in Ukraine and ties have deteriorated to their lowest level since at least the 1962 Cuban missile crisis.

Antonov’s exit was flagged on Thursday by Russia’s Kommersant newspaper, which spotted a handwritten note that Antonov had sent to congratulate a Moscow think-tank on its 30th anniversary.

“My assignment is coming to an end. I hope that together we will continue to defend the interests of our Fatherland!” Antonov wrote in the congratulatory letter, dated June 29.

When asked about the matter on Thursday, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova was cited by the Interfax news agency as telling reporters:

“There is no reason to comment here. Everyone can have their own personal plans. Decisions on the appointment and change of ambassadors are made by the president.”

Antonov, 69, took up his role in Washington in September 2017. Before that, he served as a deputy defence minister and as a deputy foreign minister.

(Reporting by Reuters; Writing by Andrew Osborn; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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