This article originally appeared on TIME.
Russian President Vladimir Putin will not be countering President Obama's decision to expel Russian diplomats in response to allegations of Russian-backed election hacking.
Although Putin did castigate Obama and the United States on Friday after learning of the newly-imposed sanctions and expellings, he denied earlier reports that U.S. diplomats would be ousted in retaliation for Washington’s disciplinary actions in the wake of the election hacking attacks.
The White House release of the sactions on Thursday, coupled with expel orders for 35 Russian diplomats, brought the controversy over the cyber assault against the American political system to a height.
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Putin referred to the sanctions as a “provocation aimed to further undermine Russian-American relations,” in a stataement on the Kremlin website, while also refuting claims that Moscow would be ousting American diplomats.
“The Russian diplomats returning home will spend the New Year Holidays with their relatives and dear ones,” Putin said. “At home. We will not create problems for U.S. diplomats. We will not expel anybody.”
The diplomatic confrontation between Washington and Moscow, which had been festering even before the Nov. 8 presidential election elevated Donald Trump to the presidency, puts pressure on the billionaire businessman not to let Russia off the hook after he takes office on Jan. 20.
Russia’s government had threatened retaliation, and it continues to deny U.S. accusations that it hacked and stole emails to try to help Trump win.