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Putin: Russia 'will not expel anyone' in US diplomatic row

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov had called for tit-for-tat retaliation against Washington by declaring 35 US diplomats 'persona non grata'.

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Putin: Russia 'will not expel anyone' in US diplomatic row

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President Putin has said Moscow “will not expel anyone” in response to Washington’s expulsion of 35 Russian diplomats over alleged cyber hacking to interfere with the US election.

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"We will not resort to irresponsible 'kitchen' diplomacy"

Vladimir Putin Russian President

“We will not resort to irresponsible ‘kitchen’ diplomacy,” the Russian leader added in a statement released by the Kremlin, saying Moscow would seek to “restore Russian-US relations based on the policies of the Trump administration”. He regretted that the Obama administration was ending its term in an “unfriendly” and “provocative” manner.

Earlier on Friday the Russian foreign minister said he was recommending that 35 American diplomats be expelled in a tit-for-tat move with Washington.

Sergei Lavrov accused the US administration of acting without any proof against Moscow. Allegations that Russia had interfered in the US election campaign were groundless, he said.

Following the US move to kick out 35 Russian diplomats, Lavrov said “we cannot leave such steps unanswered”.

The foreign minister said he had asked President Putin to declare 31 US embassy staff in Moscow “persona non grata”, as well as four consulate staff in St Petersburg.

But reports then quickly emerged quoting Vladimir Putin saying no-one would be expelled in response to the US sanctions. The president went further, inviting the children of American diplomats to New Year parties at the Kremlin.

The Kremlin had said on Thursday that Moscow would retaliate “appropriately” to the expulsion from the US of 35 diplomats following allegations of Russian cyber interference in last month’s US elections.

Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said the Obama administration was ending its term in “anti-Russia death throes”.

President Obama’s move on Thursday expelling Russian diplomats from Washington and San Francisco came after US intelligence officials blamed Moscow for hacking intended to damage the Democrats’ electoral chances.

The latest US sanctions include the closure of two Russian compounds in Maryland and New York – used for intelligence gathering – in response to US claims of harassment against American diplomats in Moscow.

Writing after Obama’s order on Thursday and before the Russian response, US President-elect Donald Trump said – without mentioning Russia directly – that it was “time for our country to move on to bigger and better things”, adding that he would meet with intelligence leaders next week.

The FBI and Department of Homeland Security’s report published on Thursday gave details of Russian operations which it said targeted the US election and government bodies.