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Putin: Russia Will Not Expel Diplomats In Response To U.S. Sanctions

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Putin: Russia Will Not Expel Diplomats In Response To U.S. Sanctions

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Putin, Obama, Russian Sanctions

MOSCOW (Reuters) – 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.”

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.

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.

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.

(Additional reporting by Dustin Volz, Yeganeh Torbati, Eric Beech and Nikolai Pavlov in Washington and Katya Golubkova and Svetlana Reiter in Moscow; Writing by Anna Willard; Editing by David Stamp)

IMAGE: U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin walk into a photo opportunity before their meeting at the United Nations General Assembly in New York September 28, 2015. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

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6 Comments

  1. Godzilla December 30, 2016

    Full Putin Statement below, via the Kremlin events page:

    We regard the recent unfriendly steps taken by the
    outgoing US administration as provocative and aimed at further weakening
    the Russia-US relationship. This runs contrary to the fundamental
    interests of both the Russian and American people. Considering the
    global security responsibilities of Russia and the United States, this
    is also damaging to international relations as a whole.

    As it proceeds from international practice, Russia has reasons to respond in kind. Although we have the right to retaliate, we
    will not resort to irresponsible ‘kitchen’ diplomacy but will plan our
    further steps to restore Russian-US relations based on the policies of
    the Trump Administration.

    The diplomats who
    are returning to Russia will spend the New Year’s holidays with their
    families and friends. We will not create any problems for US diplomats.
    We will not expel anyone. We will not prevent their families and
    children from using their traditional leisure sites during the New
    Year’s holidays. Moreover, I invite all children of US diplomats
    accredited in Russia to the New Year and Christmas children’s parties in
    the Kremlin.

    It is regrettable that the Obama Administration is ending its term in this manner. Nevertheless, I offer my New Year greetings to President Obama and his family.

    My season’s greetings also to President-elect Donald Trump and the American people.

    I wish all of you happiness and prosperity.

    Obama has lost the diplomacy battle with Putin once again. It will be nice to have an adult in the Oval office again.

    Reply
    1. I Am Helpy December 30, 2016

      It is no surprise whatsoever to see you cheerleading for a murderous dictator that has people tortured for disagreeing with him.

      Reply
      1. Dominick Vila December 31, 2016

        …and a thug responsible for genocide in Chechnya, Ukraine, and Syria. Who would have thought that the same people who not so long ago accused everyone else of being communists, and now praising the crimes and misdeeds being carried out by a former KGB chief and the Kremlin. Where are Eisenhower, Reagan, and all the Americans who fought – and many died – fighting Russian expansionism?
        Looks like they won the cold war without firing a shot. Not only are they about to have a puppet, and a First Lady born in a communist country, in the White House, but millions of Americans cheering them on, and praising them for their misdeeds.

        Reply
  2. itsfun December 31, 2016

    Putin outclasses Obama again. In one week Obama has stabbed Israel in the back, and has been outsmarted by Putin again. Obama is proving what a joke he is to the rest of the world.

    Reply
  3. Dominick Vila December 31, 2016

    Joe McCarthy, Ronald Reagan, and every American that fought against Russian expansionism, and communism must be turning in their graves.
    Who would have thought that the same guys that continue to talk about commies, and claim to plan to Make America Great Again, would not only encourage the Russians to spy on us, and ignore what that country did to us, but continue to praise Vladimir Putin and the Kremlin, for their meddling in the internal affairs of the USA.
    Yes ladies and gentlemen, Putin is smart. In fact, he is so smart that he is playing an American President-elect – and his supporters – like little puppets. Republicans have gone through many transformations since Donald Trump, a man without ideological convictions, decided to run for office, but none are as amazing as hearing their indifference – or support – when their idol decides to praise a former KGB chief and the grand master of Russian expansionism.
    I suppose what Trump is doing is not surprising. One of his former wives, and his present wife, were born in communist countries. His former campaign manager, and some senior members of his campaign, worked for Russian companies, or for pro-Russian politicians in Ukraine. Most importantly, he has not tried to hide his fascination with Putin, and Russian oligarchs in general. His latest stunt was predictable, and consistent with the statements he has been making. What surprises me so much is hearing and reading the comments of so many Reds. I confess that I was unaware of the extent of communist infiltration in the Republican party. Live and learn.
    I congratulate President Obama for condemning what Putin and the Kremlin did, proposing sanctions against Russia, and expelling 35 KGB agents. Those retaliatory steps may be the least we can do, but considering the fact that a pro-Russian President will be Inaugurated in just a couple of weeks, and that the new President is delighted with the espionage and meddling that helped him win the 2016 election, symbolic retaliation is the only thing we can do under the circumstances.

    Reply

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