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.
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.