“We reserve the right to retaliate, but we will not sink to the level of this irresponsible ‘kitchen’ diplomacy. We will take further moves on restoring Russian-American relations based on the policies that the administration of President-elect Donald Trump adopts,” Russian President Vladimir Putin said in a statement published by the Kremlin website.
Putin said that, unlike the Obama administration, Russia will not target foreign diplomats and their families days before New Year’s celebrations.
“We will not forbid families and children from spending the New Year’s holidays at the places they are used to. Moreover, I invite the children of all American diplomats with accreditation in Russia to New Year’s and Christmas festivities in the Kremlin,” the Russian president said.
Putin said he regretted that US President Barack Obama is ending his term “in such a way,” but that he extended his New Year’s congratulations to the outgoing US president and his family nevertheless.
“I congratulate President-elect Donald Trump and the entire American people!” he concluded.
The Kremlin said it will send a government plane to the US to evacuate the expelled diplomats and their family members. Earlier, there were reports that the diplomats were having problems buying tickets on such short notice, with airlines already booked by New Year’s travelers.
Earlier, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov suggested that Russia respond to the expulsion of 35 Russian diplomats from the US by expelling 35 American diplomats from Russia. Similarly, the eviction of a Russian diplomatic staff from two vacation houses in the US would be mirrored by a similar eviction of Americans in Russia.
President Obama targeted Russian diplomats as a part of wider sanctions against Russian, which he justified by the alleged interference by the Russian government in the November presidential election in the US. Moscow denies the allegations.
The US claimed that the vacation houses had been used for espionage. Russia insists that they were used by the diplomatic staff to spend holidays with their families.