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Ryabkov was born in Moscow in 1960. At age 22, in 1982, he graduated from the Moscow State Institute of International Relations. Upon graduation, he immediately joined the Russian Foreign Ministry. In 1995, he worked in the Foreign Ministry's Department of European Co-operation. In 2002, he worked as a counselor at the Russian Embassy in Washington, DC. In 2006, he returned to Moscow and was appointed head of his former department (the Department of European Co-operation). He was designated Deputy Foreign Minister in 2008.
Ryabkov speaks English fluently and frequently gives interviews to English-speaking media organizations. Ryabkov, for example, has been featured on the channel RT several times. He often speaks for the Foreign Ministry in commenting on nuclear and other disarmament negotiations, specifically such things as the New START treaty.