MOSCOW — Vladimir Putin on Friday condemned new U.S. sanctions against Russia but rejected his own foreign minister’s proposal to retaliate by expelling American diplomats.
Russia’s president described the White House measures as a “provocation aimed to further undermine Russian-American relations” as the fallout from alleged cyber-attacks and interference in the U.S. election deepened.
But he said Russia would not seek the expulsion of U.S. diplomats, despite earlier being urged to do so by Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who also called for the shuttering of a country retreat and a warehouse used by American officials in Moscow.
President Barack Obama on Thursday ordered the expulsion of 35 Russian suspected spies and imposed sanctions on two suspected hackers and three companies that allegedly provided support to cyber operations by the country’s GRU intelligence service.
U.S. intelligence agencies have previously blamed Russia for being involved in cyber-attacks on Democratic party institutions in the run-up to the November 8 election.
The CIA has concluded that the interference was intended to help Donald Trump win, and NBC News has reported that intelligence officials believe “with a high level of confidence” that Putin was personally involved in the covert campaign.
Lavrov said Russia would not leave the sanctions unanswered and said that allegations that Russia interfered during the U.S. election were baseless. “We surely cannot leave such tricks without an answer,” he said.
However, Putin later said in a statement on the Kremlin website: “We will not expel anyone.”
Russian Prime Minster Dmitry Medvedev said Friday that the Obama administration was ending its term in “anti-Russia agony,” while Russia’s British Embassy tweeted a picture of a duck with “LAME” written over it.