Russia won’t expel anyone, says Putin

NO TIT-FOR-TAT: The US action came over the alleged computer hacking in the presidential election

• Obama announces expulsion of 35 suspected Russian spies
• Putin says will wait for Trump to decide on any further steps
• Putin invites children of US diplomats to a party
• Not clear if Trump will roll back on the steps

MOSCOW: 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 US diplomats after outgoing US 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 January 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.”
He even invited the children of US diplomats to a party in the Kremlin.
It was not clear whether Trump, who has repeatedly praised Putin and nominated people seen as friendly towards Moscow to senior administration posts, would seek to roll back the measures which mark a
new post-Cold War low in US-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.
In a separate message of New Year congratulations to Trump, he said Russia-US relations were an important factor for maintaining global safety and stability.
The US 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 said that the facility in Maryland was a dacha used by diplomatic staff and their children.
Lavrov also proposed banning US diplomats from using a dacha in Moscow’s prestigious waterfront park area, Serebryany Bor.
But Putin said Russia would not prohibit US diplomats and their families from their usual vacation spots.
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”.
— Reuters