Putin: Moscow won’t expel US diplomats
Statement came hours after Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov suggested tit-for-tat expulsion
Russian President Vladimir Putin castigated the United States on Friday for bringing sanctions and expelling Russian diplomats amid allegations of Russian meddling in the US presidential election, but said no US diplomats will be ousted in reprisal for Washington’s moves in the wake of hacking attacks.
In a burgeoning controversy surrounding complaints from the Obama administration about a cyber assault against the US political system, the White House on Thursday unleashed a string of sanctions and coupled them with an order that 35 Russians be expelled.
In a statement on Friday on the Kremlin’s website, Putin referred to the sanctions as a “provocation aimed to further undermine Russian-American relations”. But he also said that Moscow would not be ousting US diplomats.
“The Russian diplomats returning home will spend the New Year Holidays with their relatives and dear ones,” Putin said. “At home. We will not create problems for US diplomats. We will not expel anybody.”
The diplomatic confrontation between Washington and Moscow, which had been festering even before the Nov 8 presidential election elevated Donald Trump to the presidency, puts pressure on the billionaire businessman not to let Russia off the hook after he takes office on Jan 20.
Russia’s government had threatened retaliation, and it continues to deny US accusations that it hacked and stole emails to try to help Trump win.
Trump said the US should move on, but in a sign he was no longer totally brushing off the allegations, he plans to meet with US intelligence leaders next week to learn more. ‘Mutual respect’ key to ties
Putin’s statement came hours after Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov suggested a tit-for-tat expulsion in televised remarks. He said early on Friday that Russia’s foreign ministry and other agencies had suggested that Putin order expulsion of 31 employees of the US Embassy in Moscow and four diplomats from the US Consulate in St. Petersburg. Another suggestion is to bar US diplomats from using their summer retreat on the outskirts of Moscow and a warehouse south of Moscow.
But in the website remarks, Putin said, Russia would not prevent the families and children (of diplomats) from using the customary rest and leisure facilities and sites during the New Year holidays.
“Moreover, I am inviting all children of US diplomats accredited in Russia to the New Year and Christmas parties in the Kremlin,” he said.
President Barack Obama on Thursday ordered sanctions against the GRU and FSB, leading Russian intelligence agencies the US said were involved.
In an elaborately coordinated response by at least five federal agencies, the Obama administration also sought to expose Russia’s cyber tactics with a detailed technical report and hinted it might still launch a covert counterattack.
“All Americans should be alarmed by Russia’s actions,” said Obama, who was vacationing in Hawaii. He added, “Such activities have consequences.”
China said on Friday that it hopes the United States and Russia could properly solve their differences through friendly negotiations, and handle their relationship on the basis of mutual respect in order to realize its stable development.
“Both the US and Russia are big countries with significant influence in the world, and they shoulder important responsibilities in promoting world peace and development,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a daily news conference in Beijing.
When asked whether a likely improvement in US-Russia relations, after Donald Trump takes office as US president, will affect Moscow’s ties with Beijing, Hua said China-Russia relations are mature and stable and able to withstand the tests of the fluctuating international situation.
“They will not change in a short period or by a single incident,” she said.
Hua noted that China has always proposed to, based on the aims and principles of the United Nations Charter, promote the establishment of a new type of international relations with cooperation and win-win results at its core.
“Just as I have said, China believes that the two countries will help to maintain world peace and stability through properly handling differences and improving their relations on the basis of equality and mutual respect,” she said.
China, the US and Russia are all big countries with global influence, as well as permanent members of the UN Security Council, Hua said, adding that strengthened cooperation and favorable interaction among them will be also conducive to world peace, stability and development.
“We are willing to enhance cooperation with the US and Russia, to make due efforts and contribute to promoting world peace and development, as well as solving various problems and challenges the world is facing now,” she said.