Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump
VON PRESS Americas: Putin on Friday said he would not hit back for the U.S. expulsion of 35 suspected Russian spies by the outgoing President Barack Obama despite the foreign ministry asking him to deport 35 US diplomats in retaliation.
Meanwhile, Trump's tweet illustrated US shifting policy over Russia, 20 days before he is due to take office from Obama.
"Great move on delay (by V. Putin) - I always knew he was very smart!" the US president-elect tweeted.
Trump might encounter opposition in Congress, including from fellow Republicans.
Republican John McCain said on Friday that Russia must face a penalty for the cyber-attacks.
"When you attack a country, it's an act of war," McCain said in an interview with the Ukrainian TV channel "1+1" while on a visit to Kiev.
Obama on Thursday ordered the expulsion of the Russian diplomats and sanctions on two Russian intelligence agencies over their involvement in hacking of the US presidential election in November.
Inviting children of US diplomats to a holiday party at the Kremlin, Putin said, "We will not expel anyone."
He added that Russia will set it policy "based on the policies pursued by the administration of President Donald Trump," while keeping the right to respond.
Putin laid the blame on Obama, saying "unfriendly steps" leading to "a provocation aimed at further undermining Russian-American relations, "but also confirmed he was awaiting for Donald Trump to take office next month.
Prior to Trump's tweet, a State Department official's limited response propped up the gulf between the outgoing Obama and the newly-elected Trump.
"We have seen President Putin's remarks. We have nothing further to add," the official said.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and his American counterpart Barack Obama walk into a photo opportunity before their meeting at the United Nations General Assembly in New York (September 28, 2015)
Obama on Thursday unleashed a series of sanctions against Russia over alleged cyberattacks aimed at tilting the November presidential election in Trump's favor.
In retaliation to the purported hacks, dubbed "Grizzly Steppe" by US officials, Obama announced penalties against Russia's military and domestic intelligence agencies, and gave the 35 suspected "intelligence operatives" 72 hours to leave.
U.S. intelligence agencies say Russia was behind hacks into Democratic Party organizations and operatives before the presidential election. Moscow denies this. U.S. intelligence officials say the Russian cyber-attacks aimed to put Trump in the Oval Office.
Trump, too, has questioned whether Russia tipped the electoral scale, painting Obama's accusations as a thinly veiled effort by a Democratic president to cover up for his party's loss.
Trump, however, has said he will meet with intelligence leaders next week for a briefing.
It remains unclear whether Trump will move to roll back the sanctions. Leading Republican lawmakers have publicly warned him to stay tough on Putin.
Beyond the election row, Obama also linked the fresh sanctions to harassment of US diplomats in Moscow, which Washington described as "unprecedented" in the post-Cold War era.
US officials, meanwhile, played down the impact sanctions against the GRU and the FSB could have on intelligence-sharing on issues like counterterrorism, saying cooperation was already limited.
Both agencies will face penalties, as will GRU agency chief Igor Korobov and three of his deputies.
In addition, the US Treasury hit two individuals, Evgeniy Bogachev and Aleksey Belan, with sanctions for "involvement in malicious cyber-enabled activities."
The sanctions freeze any assets they may have in the United States and block US companies from doing business with them.
The US government is also declassifying technical information on Russian cyber activity to help companies defend against future attacks.