Vladimir Putin invited children of 35 US diplomats to Kremlin for Christmas in latest Barack Obama jibe

Mr Putin has accused the US President of "irresponsible diplomacy"

Tom Batchelor
Wednesday 04 January 2017 16:26 GMT
Russian President Vladimir Putin makes his New Year's address to the nation in Moscow's Kremlin, December 31, 2016
Russian President Vladimir Putin makes his New Year's address to the nation in Moscow's Kremlin, December 31, 2016 (MIKHAIL KLIMENTIEV/AFP/Getty Images)

Vladimir Putin has invited the children of 35 US diplomats to visit the Kremlin in a provocative stunt aimed at embarrassing the outgoing US president.

The move was designed to rile Barack Obama’s administration after it chose to expel 35 Russian officials from the US amid claims the Kremlin interfered in the US election.

It came just days after Mr Putin accused the US President of “irresponsible diplomacy”.

Invitations were sent to Moscow-based diplomats at the US embassy before Christmas, with the children of the 35 diplomats given the chance to see the Russian President’s festive tree.

Trump's advisor suggests Obama's sanctions against Russia are to 'box in' the incoming President

The action is Russia’s latest attempt to undermine Barack Obama before he leaves office on January 20.

Russian diplomats at the UK embassy earlier tweeted that Mr Obama was a lame duck president.

Mr Putin said: “All the children of American diplomats accredited in Russia, I invite you to the New Year's and Christmas tree in the Kremlin.”

A US embassy spokesperson responded that diplomats “appreciated” the invite but did not comment on whether anyone had attended the event.

The move followed the expulsion last week of 35 Russian diplomats in retaliation for the hacking of email accounts linked to the Democratic Party.

US security officials believe Kremlin-backed hackers accessed the servers to help Mr Trump win the presidency.

The emails, taken from Hillary Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta, were then released by Wikileaks.

In all 96 Russians were flown home after being given 72 hours to leave the country.

Many of the Russian officials and their families arrived in Moscow early on Monday.

Some had complained that the expulsion ruined families' celebrations of New Year's Eve, Russia's main gift-giving holiday.

The expulsions were part of a package of sanctions ordered by President Barack Obama last Thursday in the final weeks of his administration.

Russia’s foreign ministry advised Mr Putin to carry out reciprocal expulsions of 35 US officials.

But Mr Putin said he would not “stoop to the level of irresponsible diplomacy”.

“We will not create problems for American diplomats, we will not expel anyone,” he continued in a statement, adding that Russia reserved the right “to retaliate”.

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