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Putin says Russian foreign minister’s proposal of expelling US diplomats won’t happen

US Embassy in Moscow. Photo: Alexander Nemenov/AFP/Getty Images

Russia’s Foreign Ministry has recommended that the Kremlin expel 35 US diplomats from Russia in response to sanctions announced by Washington, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Friday.

Lavrov said his ministry proposed that 31 staff members be expelled from the US Embassy in Moscow and four from the US consulate in St Petersburg.

However, President Vladimir Putin says Russia won’t be expelling the US diplomats.

The Russian foreign minister called US allegations of Russia’s interference in the US election campaign “groundless.”

The US on Thursday ordered 35 Russian diplomats to leave the country and ordered the closure of two Russian compounds. The diplomats and their families were given 72 hours to leave the country.

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev on Friday accused the Obama administration of ending its term in office “in anti-Russian agony.”

Posting on his official Twitter and Facebook accounts, Medvedev said, “Sadly, the Obama administration, which began its life with the restoration of cooperation, ends it in anti-Russian agony. RIP.”

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov insisted Thursday that the claims of election meddling were “groundless” but said there was “absolutely no alternative to the principle of reciprocity” now that sanctions had been imposed.

The steps taken by President Barack Obama Thursday mark a new low in what have become increasingly frosty relations between Russia and the United States.

The Obama administration described Russia’s actions as “Significant Malicious Cyber-Enabled Activities” and sanctioned four Russian individuals and five Russian entities for what it said was election interference.

“Russia’s cyberactivities were intended to influence the election, erode faith in US democratic institutions, sow doubt about the integrity of our electoral process, and undermine confidence in the institutions of the US government,” a White House statement said. “These actions are unacceptable and will not be tolerated.”