Putin says Russia won’t expel US diplomats in response to sanctions; Trump calls it ‘smart’ move

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MOSCOW — President Vladimir Putin said Russia won’t be expelling US diplomats in response to a new round of U.S. sanctions.

This came after Russia‘s foreign minister suggested expelling 35 U.S. diplomats in response to a new round of U.S. sanctions against Moscow.

U.S. President Barack Obama on Thursday imposed sanctions on Russian officials and intelligence services in retaliation alleged Russian interference in the U.S. presidential election, as American political sites and email accounts were hacked. Thirty-five Russian diplomats were ordered to leave the U.S. in 72 hours, and two facilities were closed.

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said in televised remarks on Friday that the foreign ministry and other agencies have suggested that President Vladimir Putin order expulsion of 31 employees of the U.S. embassy in Moscow and four diplomats from the U.S. consulate in St. Petersburg. Another suggestion was to bar U.S. diplomats from using their summer retreat on the outskirts of Moscow and a warehouse in the south of Moscow.

Later in the day, President-elect Donald Trump praised Putin for holding off on retaliation.

Trump on Twitter praises Putin’s “Great move on delay.”

He added, “I always knew he was very smart!”

Putin on Friday condemned a new round of U.S. sanctions against Russia, but he said Moscow would not retaliate by expelling American diplomats.

Trump has been slow to criticize Putin and has questioned U.S. intelligence linking Russia to campaign hacks.

Trump is planning to meet next week with U.S. intelligence officials, but he says it’s time for the country to move on.