Going against the recommendation of his own foreign minister, Russian President Vladimir Putin says he will not expel U.S. diplomats from Russia, even as the Obama administration put 35 Russian intelligence operatives on notice Thursday that they had 72 hours to leave the U.S.
“Returning to their homeland, Russian diplomats will spend the New Year holidays in the circle of relatives and friends — at home,” Putin said in a statement released Friday, further vowing to “not create problems for U.S. diplomats.”
“We will not send anyone away. We will not prohibit their families and children to use for their usual vacation spots in the New Year’s holidays,” the statement reads.
Instead, the former KGB agent attempted to portray himself as a type of Jolly Old St. Nick.
“Moreover,” the statement adds, “all children of American diplomats in Russia, I invite you to New Year’s and to the Christmas tree at the Kremlin.