Vladimir Putin will not expel any US diplomats from Russia in response to the sanctions announced by Barack Obama earlier, it is being reported.
Earlier reports had suggested that senior Russian officials were urging their president to launch a tit-for-tat response after the US announced it was expelling 35 Russian diplomats and closing two Russian diplomatic compounds. However it now appears the Kremlin wants to steer clear of this course of action.
The Kremlin has now released a statement, which reads:
"We regard the recent unfriendly steps taken by the outgoing US administration as provocative and aimed at further weakening the Russia-US relationship. This runs contrary to the fundamental interests of both the Russian and American people. Considering the global security responsibilities of Russia and the United States, this is also damaging to international relations as a whole.
"As it proceeds from international practice, Russia has reasons to respond in kind. Although we have the right to retaliate, we will not resort to irresponsible ‘kitchen’ diplomacy but will plan our further steps to restore Russian-US relations based on the policies of the Trump Administration.
"The diplomats who are returning to Russia will spend the New Year’s holidays with their families and friends. We will not create any problems for US diplomats. We will not expel anyone. We will not prevent their families and children from using their traditional leisure sites during the New Year’s holidays. Moreover, I invite all children of US diplomats accredited in Russia to the New Year and Christmas children’s parties in the Kremlin."
The US expulsions are based on allegations that Russia interfered in the country's recent presidential elections and that US diplomats have been subject to 'harassment' in Moscow.
Tension between Russia and the US has escalated in recent months, with Mr Putin's involvement in the Syria conflict a key factor.