Putin says Russia will not expel American diplomats in response to US sanctions

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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.

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At the end of 2015, Vladimir Putin lauded Trump's presidential campaign, calling him "an absolute leader of the presidential race, as we see it." 
In response to Putin's compliments Trump said: "It is always a great honor to be so nicely complimented by a man so highly respected within his own country and beyond."
Putin has called Trump a "very outstanding man" and "unquestionably talented."
When Russia continued its military buildup in Syria and Putin backed the country's President Bashar al-Assad in 2015, Trump declared the Russian leader earned an "A" in leadership. 
Trump not only gave the Russian leader an "A," he also said Putin has been a better leader than US President Barack Obama. "He is really very much of a leader," Trump said of Putin. "The man has very strong control over his country. Now, it's a very different system, and I don't happen to like the system, but certainly in that system he's been a leader, far more than our president has been a leader." 
At a national security forum in September, Trump explained his friendly relationship with Putin saying: "If he says great things about me, I'm going to say great things about him." 
When asked about allegations that Putin orchestrated the deaths of his political opponents and journalists, Trump defended Putin: "I haven't seen any evidence that he killed anybody."
After Trump won the election November 8, Putin sent the president-elect a telegram congratulating him on his victory. 
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"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 U.S. diplomats 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.

In a separate message of New Year congratulations to Trump, he said Russia-U.S. relations were an important factor for maintaining global safety and stability.

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.

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US President Barack Obama (L) and Russia's President Vladimir Putin (2nd-R) shake hands before an economic leaders meeting at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit at the Lima Convention Centre on November 20, 2016 in Lima. Asia-Pacific leaders are expected to send a strong message in defense of free trade as they wrap up a summit that has been overshadowed by US President-elect Donald Trump's protectionism. / AFP / Brendan Smialowski (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama (L) and Russia's President Vladimir Putin (2R) walk from each other after speaking and shaking hands before an economic leaders meeting at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit at the Lima Convention Centre November 20, 2016 in Lima. Asia-Pacific leaders are expected to send a strong message in defense of free trade as they wrap up a summit that has been overshadowed by US President-elect Donald Trump's protectionism. / AFP / Brendan Smialowski (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
Russian diplomat Yuri Ushakov (R) listens while US President Barack Obama (2L) and Russia's President Vladimir Putin (2R) talk before an economic leaders meeting at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit at the Lima Convention Centre on November 20, 2016 in Lima. Asia-Pacific leaders are expected to send a strong message in defense of free trade as they wrap up a summit that has been overshadowed by US President-elect Donald Trump's protectionism. / AFP / Brendan Smialowski (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
Russian diplomat Yuri Ushakov (R) listens while US President Barack Obama (2L) and Russia's President Vladimir Putin (2R) talk before an economic leaders meeting at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit at the Lima Convention Centre on November 20, 2016 in Lima. Asia-Pacific leaders are expected to send a strong message in defense of free trade as they wrap up a summit that has been overshadowed by US President-elect Donald Trump's protectionism. / AFP / Brendan Smialowski (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
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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."

"EMBITTERED LOSERS"

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev was more outspoken in his criticism. "It is regrettable that the Obama administration, which started out by restoring our ties, is ending its term in an anti-Russia death throes. RIP," he wrote on his official Facebook page.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova called the Obama administration "a group of embittered and dimwitted foreign policy losers".

Obama said Americans should be alarmed by Russia's actions in the U.S. election.

"These actions follow repeated private and public warnings that we have issued to the Russian government, and are a necessary and appropriate response to efforts to harm U.S. interests in violation of established international norms of behavior," he said in a statement from Hawaii, where he is on vacation.

The sanctions were the strongest response yet by the his administration to Russian cyber activities. However, a senior administration official acknowledged that Trump could reverse them and allow Russian intelligence officials back into the United States once he takes office.

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Bound for the rigors of business school in the future, Donald Trump received discipline at an early age by attending a military academy. There, he reportedly excelled in extracurricular activities such as being the Honor Cadet.

Donald Trump in the New York Military Academy's 1964 yearbook

Source: Classmates

As someone who loves the art of negotiation, Donald Trump was able to negotiate New York City to provide a 40-year tax abatement for the Grand Hyatt Hotel — the first ever granted to a commercial property.

(Photo by NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)

Master renovator: Trump offered to renovate decrepit areas in need, such as a long-closed ice-skating rink, at no profit to himself, after the city's renovation effort went through five years of delays and more than double the original cost estimate.

(Photo by Michael Schwartz / (c) NYP Holdings, Inc. via Getty Images)

Trump's enterprise also stretched out into sports, where he was the original owner of the New Jersey Generals of the United States Football League.

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - CIRCA 1983: Team Owner Donald Trump announces he has signed Herschel Walker to play running back for the New Jersey Generals in New Jersey. Walker played for the General form 1983-85.

(Photo by Sporting News via Getty Images)

Trump owns a fleet of luxury helicopters.

Donald Trump, real estate mogul, entrepreneur, and billionare, utilizes his personal helicopter to get around on August 1987 in New York City.

(Photo by Joe McNally/Getty Images)
Trump was also notorious for befriending attractive supermodels. His first wife, Ivana, a Czech-American, was a member of the social elite.

Ivana Trump and Donald Trump are seen in December 1982 in New York City.

(Photo by Sonia Moskowitz/Getty Images)
No expense was spared for his belongings, as Donald Trump once paid the sultan of Brunei $30 million for a nearly 300-foot yacht.

American businessman Donald Trump and his wife Ivana sit at a table on board their luxury yacht The Trump Princess, anchored outside the Water Club, New York City, July 1988.

(Photo by Tom Gates/Getty Images)
To test the political waters, the potential Reform Party presidential candidate traveled to several areas to address party leaders.

New York real estate developer Donald Trump (L) answers questions as Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura looks on in Brooklyn Park, January 7. Trump said on Friday he "very well might" make a run for president under the Reform Party banner but had not made a final decision. "I'm looking very seriously if I can win," he told reporters. "And if I can win, I believe I can do a very good job." Trump came to Minnesota to raise money for the party's highest elected official, Governor Ventura, who made it clear that he and the New York developer were on the same wavelength.

(STR New / Reuters)

Trump also enjoys tennis — he even played a round, wearing his traditional suit, against the legendary Serena Williams.

Developer Donald Trump talks with his former wife Ivana Trump during the men's final at the U.S. Open September 7, 1997. REUTERS/File Photo 

He also became the owner of the infamous Miss Universe beauty pageant for many years.

Donald Trump and Miss Connecticut USA Erin Brady poses onstage after winning the 2013 Miss USA pageant at PH Live at Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino on June 16, 2013 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

(Photo by Michael Stewart/WireImage)

Unbeknownst to many, Donald Trump is a formidable opponent on the green. He owns 15 golf courses.

Donald Trump announced on Saturday, 11/9/02 a major addition to his West Coast properties as he purchased the Ocean Trails Golf Club in Rancho Palos Verdes. He discussed the improvements and additions to the club to members of the Rancho Palos Verdes community on Saturday morning. Ocean Trails made headlines in 1999 when days before its scheduled opening, part of the course's 18th hole slid into the Pacific Ocean. The club will reopen in June, 2003 under Trump's direction. 

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Sometimes, negotiating can be a tough sport. What better way to exert your dominance by taking the center stage among the world's most bombastic figures?

Donald Trump, Stone Cold Steve Austin and WWE wrestler Bobby Lashley get ready to shave Vince McMahon's head after McMahons lost the main event of the night, 'Hair vs. Hair', between Vince McMahon and Donald Trump. WrestleMania 23 at Detroit's Ford Field in Detroit, Michigan on April 1, 2007.

(Photo by Leon Halip/WireImage)

As the fog of the political battlefield has cleared on the Republican side, Trump is now preparing for a likely battle with presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

Donald Trump (C), flanked by his children Ivanka and Donald Trump Jr., addresses the media in Chicago May 10, 2006. Trump was in Chicago to speak about his Trump International Hotel and Tower Chicago that is being built on the old site of the Chicago Sun-Times building on the north side of the Chicago River.

(REUTERS/Stephen J. Carrera)

Being the entertaining host, Trump also spared no expense in providing a spectacular show for friends and family.

 Developer and multi-millionaire Donald Trump (R) watches as ex-wife Marla Maples gets a kiss from Earl Sinclair of TV's 'Dinosaurs' during lunch at the Trump Plaza Hotel November 2, 1992. REUTERS/Henry Ray Abrams

As a self-proclaimed family man, Trump attended many public events and television shows with his family, even before his current campaign.

 Donald Trump and Ivanka Trump attend U.S. Open Tennis Tournament on August 30, 1991 at Flushing Meadows Park in New York City. (Photo by Ron Galella/WireImage)

Source: Oprah

Trump first started showing signs of interest for a possible bid for the US presidency with the formation of a presidential exploratory committee ahead of the 2000 election.

Billionaire real estate developer Donald Trump (R) talks with host Larry King after taping a segment of King's CNN talk show, in New York October 7. Reuters

Source: Reuters

In 2005, Donald Trump married fashion designer and model Melania Trump.

Real estate magnate Donald Trump (L) and Melania Trump leave Hollinger International's annual meeting at the Metropolitan Club in New York on May 22, 2003.

REUTERS/Peter Morgan PM/ME

Source: PolitiFact

As no stranger to the political process, Donald Trump was even acquainted with members of the judicial branch.

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas (L), serving as the grand marshal for the Daytona 500, speaks to Donald Trump  on the starting grid at the Daytona International Speedway February 14. JLS/ELD

Trump famously launched his presidential campaign in June 2015 by coming down an escalator in Trump Tower. Since then, he has weathered waves of controversy to become the presumptive Republican presidential nominee.

 (Photo by Christopher Gregory/Getty Images)

Trump made his final appeal to voters in swing-states as the contentious campaign drew to a close.

 Donald Trump speaks at a rally at SNHU Arena in Manchester, NH, on Nov. 7, 2016, the night before election day. (Photo by Suzanne Kreiter/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

President-elect Trump at his election night party at the Hilton Hotel in New York City.

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 09: Republican president-elect Donald Trump acknowledges the crowd during his election night event. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

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Trump has brushed aside allegations from the CIA and other intelligence agencies that Russia was behind the cyber attacks. He said on Thursday he would meet with intelligence officials soon. "It's time for our country to move on to bigger and better things," Trump said in a statement.

"Nevertheless, in the interest of our country and its great people, I will meet with leaders of the intelligence community next week in order to be updated on the facts of this situation," he said, without mentioning Russia.

U.S. intelligence agencies say Russia was behind hacks into Democratic Party organizations and operatives before the Nov. 8 presidential election. U.S. intelligence officials say the Russian cyber attacks were aimed at helping Trump defeat Democrat Hillary Clinton.

Incoming White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus told Fox News he did not condone foreign governments hacking U.S. institutions.

"It's wrong and it's something we don't agree with," Priebus said. "However, it would be nice if we could get to a place where the intelligence community in unison can tell us what it is that has been going on and what the investigation was and what it has led to so that we can respond."

"PERSONA NON GRATA"

Obama said the State Department declared as "persona non grata" 35 Russian intelligence operatives and was closing the two Russian compounds. The 45-acre complex in Maryland includes a Georgian-style brick mansion, swimming pool, tennis courts and cottages for embassy staff.

A senior U.S. official told Reuters the expulsions would come from the Russian embassy in Washington and consulate in San Francisco.

The Russians have 72 hours to leave the United States, the official said. Access to the two compounds will be denied to all Russian officials as of noon on Friday.

The State Department has long complained that Russian security agents and traffic police have harassed U.S. diplomats in Moscow, and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has raised the issue with Putin and Lavrov.

The U.S. official declined to name the Russian diplomats who would be affected, although it is understood that Russia's ambassador to the United States, Sergei Kislyak, will not be one of those expelled.

Obama said the actions announced on Thursday were just the beginning.

"These actions are not the sum total of our response to Russia's aggressive activities. We will continue to take a variety of actions at a time and place of our choosing, some of which will not be publicized," Obama said.

A report detailing Russia's interference in the 2016 election as well as cyber attacks in previous election cycles would be delivered to Congress in the coming days, he added.

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