Russia’s former ambassador to the United States is relieved to be back in “the world of normal people” after his nine-year diplomatic stint in Washington, he said in an interview with the pro-Kremlin Izvestia newspaper published Thursday.

“What a pleasure, how nice it is to return from the climate in which I worked to a world of normal people with normal problems, successes, relationships,” Sergei Kislyak said.

Kislyak, who found himself embroiled in controversy over reported meetings with U.S. President Donald Trump’s aides during the 2016 election campaign, returned to Moscow late last month.

The former envoy told Izvestia he was often “left speechless” at widely publicized claims of Russian interference in the U.S. presidential election last year. “They were originally built on a lie and those who leaked them knew it full well.”

Despite what he described as U.S. media “brainwashing,” Kislyak said he discovered that Americans outside Washington D.C. view Russia “in mostly a normal light.” “So, sometimes a trip to ‘middle America’ even became a breath of fresh air psychologically.”