Russian President Vladimir Putin said Friday that Russia will not expel 35 American diplomats from the country in retaliation for President Obama expelling 35 Russian intelligence officers on Thursday.
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov proposed 31 American staff members be expelled from the American embassy in Moscow and four staff members be expelled from the consulate in St. Petersburg, according to a CNN report. However, the Associated Press reported about two hours later Putin refused to expel the 35 diplomats.
In a statement, Putin said the actions Obama took were provocative, unfriendly and would further weaken relations between the U.S. and Russia.
“This runs contrary to the fundamental interests of both the Russian and American people,” the statement read. “Considering the global security responsibilities of Russia and the United States, this is also damaging to international relations as a whole.”
Putin said he wouldn’t be responding to Obama’s expulsion of Russians from the United States because he was betting on better relations with President-elect Trump come Jan. 20.
“As it proceeds from international practice, Russia has reasons to respond in kind,” Putin said. “Although we have the right to retaliate, we will not resort to irresponsible ‘kitchen’ diplomacy but will plan our further steps to restore Russian-US relations based on the policies of the Trump Administration.”
Putin said no “problems” would be created for American diplomats in Russia and the Russian officials being sent back from the United States would be spending New Year’s Day with their families.
Putin even took the step of inviting all American diplomats and their children to attend parties at the Kremlin to celebrate 2017.
“It is regrettable that the Obama Administration is ending its term in this manner. Nevertheless, I offer my New Year greetings to President Obama and his family,” Putin said.
“My season’s greetings also to President-elect Donald Trump and the American people.”
Obama ordered 35 Russian intelligence officers to leave the United States within 72 hours Thursday as retaliation for Russian hacking of the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta. Thousands of emails were released from the DNC and Podesta in the run-up to November’s presidential election.
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