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Russia rules out retaliation in response to US sanctions

By Reuters | Updated Fri, December 30th 2016 at 17:12 GMT +3
Russian President Vladimir Putin

President Vladimir Putin said Moscow would not expel anyone in response to Washington's decision to throw out 35 suspected Russian spies and sanction intelligence agencies it believes were involved in computer hacking in the 2016 presidential election.

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov earlier proposed expelling 35 U.S. diplomats after outgoing U.S. President Barack Obama ordered the expulsions and sanctions on Thursday.

But Putin said he would wait for the actions of President-elect Donald Trump, who will take office on Jan. 20, before deciding on any further steps in relations with the United States.

"We will not expel anyone," Putin said in a statement on Friday. "While keeping the right for retaliatory measures, we will not descend to the level of 'kitchen', irresponsible diplomacy."

In withering remarks, Putin even invited U.S. diplomats and their families to a party in the Kremlin.

It was not clear whether Trump, who has repeatedly praised Putin and nominated people seen as friendly toward Moscow to senior administration posts, would seek to roll back the measures which mark a new post-Cold War low in U.S.-Russian ties.

Russian officials have portrayed the sanctions as a last act of a lame-duck president and suggested that Trump could reverse them when he takes over the White House.

"Further steps towards the restoration of Russian-American relations will be built on the basis of the policy which the administration of President D. Trump will carry out," said Putin.

The U.S. sanctions also closed two Russian compounds in New York and Maryland that the administration said were used by Russian personnel for "intelligence-related purposes".

However, a former Russian Foreign Ministry employee told Reuters that the facility in Maryland was a dacha used by diplomatic staff and their children.

Lavrov also proposed banning U.S. diplomats from using a dacha in Moscow's prestigious waterfront park area, Serebryany Bor.

But Putin said Russia would not prohibit U.S. diplomats and their families from their usual vacation spots. "Moreover, I invite all children of American diplomats accredited in Russia to the New Year and Christmas party in the Kremlin," he said.

Obama, a Democrat, had promised consequences after U.S. intelligence officials blamed Russia for hacks intended to influence the 2016 election. Officials pointed the finger directly at Putin for personally directing the efforts and primarily targeting Democrats.

Washington put sanctions on two Russian intelligence agencies, the GRU and the FSB, four GRU officers and three companies that he said, "provided material support to the GRU’s cyber operations".


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