Putin says Russia will not expel US diplomats

Russian President Putin attends his annual end-of-year news conference in Moscow. (AFP)

Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin has condemned a new round of US sanctions against Russia but said Moscow will not retaliate by expelling American diplomats.

Putin, in a statement the Kremlin's web-site on Friday, referred the new sanctions as a “provocation aimed to further undermine Russian-American relations.”

But he said Russia would not be expelling American diplomats in retaliation like the Russian foreign ministry earlier suggested.

“We will not create problems for American diplomats. We will not expel anyone,” Putin said in a statement released by the Kremlin.

The United States has expelled 35 Russian diplomats and closed two Russian compounds in New York and Maryland in response to a campaign of harassment against American diplomats in Moscow, a senior US official said on Thursday.

The move against the diplomats from the Russian embassy in Washington and consulate in San Francisco is part of a series of actions announced on Thursday to punish Russia for a campaign of intimidation of American diplomats in Moscow and interference in the US election.

The Obama administration was also announcing on Thursday a series of retaliatory measures against Russia for hacking into US political institutions and individuals and leaking information to help President-elect Donald Trump and other Republican candidates, two US officials said.

Trump, who takes office on Jan. 20, has called for better relations with Russia. It was not clear if he will be able to immediately overturn the measures announced on Thursday.

The Russian diplomats would have 72 hours to leave the United States, the official said. Access to the two compounds, which are used by Russian officials for intelligence gathering, will be denied to all Russian officials as of noon on Friday, the senior US official added.

“These actions were taken to respond to Russian harassment of American diplomats and actions by the diplomats that we have assessed to be not consistent with diplomatic practice,” the official said.

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Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:53 - GMT 06:53
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