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U.S. Senator Paul to visit Russia to promote diplomacy - statement

U.S. Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) arrives for the weekly Senate Republican caucus luncheon at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S., May 22, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

(Reuters) - Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov will meet U.S. Senator Rand Paul, a proponent of encouraging diplomacy with Russia amid tense relations, in Moscow on Aug. 6, the senator’s office said on Thursday.

The Republican senator is due to lead a U.S. delegation and to meet members of the Russian parliament, Russian news agencies cited a senior lawmaker as saying earlier. Interfax news agency initially reported the scheduled meeting between Ryabkov and the senator.

Paul was one of U.S. President Donald Trump’s strongest supporters in Washington last month after he was criticized for failing to denounce Russia for meddling in the 2016 U.S. election during a summit and news conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki.

“Senator Rand Paul is a proponent of diplomacy and is supporting President Donald J. Trump in engaging around the world. He looks forward to his meetings,” Paul’s office said in a statement on Thursday. No further information was available about the trip, including who else might be in the delegation.

Paul published an opinion column in Politico on July 16, the day of the Helsinki summit, arguing that fellow Republican Trump was right to meet with Putin. He also said then that he would be traveling to Russia seeking “to discuss common ground with their leaders and help prevent further, unnecessary escalation of tensions.”

Next week’s visit would be the second U.S. Republican congressional trip to Moscow within several weeks. A delegation of senators and House members traveled there in early July.

Generally a non-interventionist on foreign policy matters, Paul has said repeatedly that he believes it is a good idea for the United States to speak to its adversaries rather than rush toward conflict.

Like Trump, he has expressed skepticism about U.S. intelligence agencies, which concluded that Russia sought to interfere in the election two years ago to boost Trump’s chances of defeating the Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton.

Reporting by Maxim Rodionov, Richard Balmforth in Moscow; additional reporting by Patricia Zengerle, Doina Chiacu in Washington; Editing by Steve Orlofsky and Grant McCool