President Vladimir Putin has decided not to expel 35 U.S. diplomats, a move recommended by Russia’s Foreign Ministry in response to punitive U.S. measures, the Kremlin said in a statement Friday.
"We will not create problems for American diplomats. We will not send anyone away," said Putin. Earlier Friday Russia’s Foreign Ministry proposed that Putin expel 35 U.S. diplomats, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told Rossiya-24 television Friday.
The proposal came one day after the U.S. applied wide-ranging penalties on Russia, including deporting 35 suspected intelligence operatives, for its alleged role in hacking this year's elections to favor the campaign of President-elect Donald Trump.
Trump praised a "great move" by Putin late Friday. "I always knew he was very smart!" he said on Twitter.
The U.S. sanctions target nine entities and individuals, including Russia's main intelligence directorate, the GRU, and its Federal Security Service, the FSB.
President Barack Obama said Thursday the 35 officials being expelled are "intelligence operatives". The officials and their families were given 72 hours to leave the U.S.
Putin called the move an "unfriendly" step from the Obama administration which aimed at further "undermining" Russian-U.S. Relations.
He added it was "contrary" to the fundamental interests of both the Russian and American people.
"Preserving the right to retaliate, we will not stoop to the level of irresponsible 'kitchen' diplomacy," said Putin.
Putin added that Russia would determine steps towards restoring Russian-American relations in line with the attitude of Trump, set to take office on Jan. 20.
Putin called it a "shame" that the Obama administration was concluding this way.