Russian President Vladimir Putin has decided not to expel 35 U.S. diplomats from Russia in retaliation for Washington’s latest sanctions against Moscow.
In what may be perceived a diplomatic master stroke, he wished President Barack Obama and his family a happy new year and invited the diplomats earlier set to be declared persona non grata and their children to a New Year party in the Kremlin.
Earlier on Friday, Russian foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, declared 35 American diplomats persona non grata, in a response to President Barack Obama’s expulsion of Russian diplomats for ‘malicious’ meddling in US election via cyber hacking.
Mr. Lavrov’s declaration was awaiting Mr. Putin’s directive but has now been reversed.
The American diplomats initially slated for expulsion include 31 personnel of the embassy in Moscow and four of the consulate general in St. Petersburg, the same number of Russian diplomats that Mr. Obama asked to go home
According to the TASS news agency, Mr. Putin noted that Washington’s actions against Russia will damage not only the bilateral relations between them but the world as a whole.
“We consider the new unfriendly steps by the outgoing U.S. administration to be provocative and aimed at further undermining the Russian-US relations,” he said.
“This definitely contravenes the fundamental interests of both the Russian and American people.”
“Considering special responsibility of Russia and the United States for the preservation of global security, this causes damage to the entire range of international relations,” he added.
Mr. Putin stressed that, in accordance with the established international practice, Moscow has every reason for an adequate response.
According to Mr. Putin, Russia reserves the right to retaliate, but will not stoop to diplomatic catfight.
“While reserving the right to take retaliatory measures, we will not stoop to the level of the so-called ‘catfight’, irresponsible diplomacy and take further steps to restore the Russian-US relations taking into account the policy that will be pursued by the administration of President Donald Trump,” he said.
The Russian leader also wished President Obama and his family a Happy New Year and regretted the fact that “the administration of President Barack Obama is ending its work in this way.”