Donald Trump has praised Russian President Vladimir Putin after he ruled out expelling American diplomats, despite a similar move by Washington in response to alleged hacking.
The president-elect tweeted: “Great move on delay (by V. Putin) – I always knew he was very smart!”
Vladimir Putin had earlier said Russia would not stoop to “irresponsible diplomacy”.
On December 29, Washington expelled 35 diplomats over hacking related to the US election. Moscow denies any involvement.
Donald Trump emphasized his statement on the row by pinning his tweet to the top of his account.
It was unclear exactly what he was referring to with the term “delay”.
Donald Trump has previously dismissed the hacking claims as “ridiculous” and said that Americans should “get on with our lives” when asked about the possibility of sanctions.
Donald Trump’s senior aide Kellyanne Conway said on December 29: “Even those who are sympathetic to President Obama on most issues are saying that part of the reason he did this today was to quote <<box in>>President-elect Trump.
“That would be very unfortunate if politics were the motivating factor here. We can’t help but think that’s often true.”
Under the US action, 35 diplomats from Russia’s Washington embassy and its consulate in San Francisco were given 72 hours to leave the United States with their families; two compounds said to have been used by Russian intelligence services in New York and Maryland were closed.
Sanctions were announced against nine entities and individuals including two Russian intelligence agencies, the GRU and the FSB.
President Barack Obama, who will be replaced by Donald Trump on January 20, had vowed action against Russia amid US accusations that it directed cyber-attacks on the Democratic Party and Hillary Clinton’s campaign.
Emails stolen from Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager, John Podesta, and from the servers of the DNC – some containing embarrassing information for Democrats – were released during the election campaign.
In a statement on the Kremlin website, President Putin said: “We won’t be expelling anyone.
“We won’t be banning their families and children from the places where they usually spend the New Year holidays. Furthermore, I invite all children of American diplomats accredited in Russia to the New Year and Christmas Tree in the Kremlin.”
Vladimir Putin wished Barack Obama and his family a happy New Year, as well as Donald Trump and “the whole American people”.
The Russian president’s comments rebuffed his foreign ministry which had reportedly suggested expelling 31 American diplomats from Moscow and four from St Petersburg.
The Russian foreign ministry also suggested banning US diplomats from their dachas (holiday homes) in Serebryany Bor near Moscow and a warehouse on Moscow’s Dorozhnaya Street.
There has been no response yet to Vladimir Putin’s move from the Obama administration.
However, Senator John McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, described the Russian hacking as an “act of war”, adding: “And so we have to make sure that there is a price to pay, so that we can perhaps persuade the Russians to stop these kind of attacks on our very fundamentals of democracy.”
John McCain said a lot more needed to be done in response to the hacking, with many sanctions possible.