Washington: Calling Vladimir Putin "very smart", US President-elect Donald Trump on Saturday praised the Russian President for not retaliating immediately to Washington's punitive measures imposed on Moscow over alleged interference in the November polls.
"Great move on delay (by V. Putin) - I always knew he was very smart!," Trump said.
Trump's move siding with Putin over President Barack Obama was seen as a dramatic departure from typical diplomatic practice.
Obama yesterday sanctioned Russia and expelled 35 of its agents over alleged Russian hacking during the US presidential polls, but his counterpart Putin surprisingly refused to retaliate, saying he will watch the moves of Trump, who will assume charge on January 20.
"All Americans should be alarmed by Russia's actions," Obama said in a statement as he ordered a number of actions in response to the Russia's alleged aggressive harassment of US officials and cyber operations targeting the US election.
The executive order issued by Obama provided additional authority for responding to certain cyber activity that seeks to interfere with or undermine US election processes and institutions, or those of its allies or partners.
In Moscow, Putin in response to Obama's sanctions said Russia "will not create problems for American diplomats. We will not expel anyone".
"According to international practice, Russia has all the grounds for a comparable response," Putin said shortly after Russian Foreign Ministry sought his approval for a tit-for-tat move.
"Reserving the right to retaliatory measures, we... Will be planning our next steps in restoring US-Russian relations based on the policies pursued by the administration of president Donald Trump," Putin said.
Putin said: "Russian diplomats returning to the motherland will spend their holidays with friends and family, at home."
He also extended an invitation to "all children of US diplomats accredited in Russia... To the New Year's and Christmas party in the Kremlin."
Russia denies involvement in hacking related to the US election, calling US sanctions "ungrounded".
Earlier, commenting on the US sanctions, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov accused Washington of trying to destroy ties by making "unfounded" allegations of interference in the US election.
Obama, who will be replaced by Trump on January 20, had vowed action against Russia amid US accusations that it directed cyber-attacks on the Democratic Party and Hillary Clinton's campaign.
Trump has repeatedly praised Putin and nominated people seen as friendly towards Moscow to senior administration posts.
Russian officials have portrayed the sanctions as a last act of a lame-duck president and suggested that Trump could reverse them when he takes over the White House.