Russian President Vladimir Putin congratulated US President-elect Donald Trump, rather than President Barack Obama, in his annual New Year’s greetings statement to foreign heads of state and government.
However, Putin did convey his seasonal greetings to Obama, his family and the American people in a separate statement earlier Friday, while responding to the latest wave of US sanctions against Russia.
In his annual greetings statement, Putin expressed hope that after Trump is sworn in as US 45th President on January 20, the two countries, “acting in a constructive and pragmatic manner, will be able to take real steps to restore the mechanisms of bilateral cooperation in various areas and take their interaction in the international arena to a whole new level.”
“Major global and regional challenges that our countries have confronted in recent years clearly confirm that Russia-US relations are an important factor in ensuring stability and security in the modern world,” reads Putin’s direct message to Trump, released by the Kremlin on Friday.
Earlier Friday, Putin said Moscow would not expel 35 American diplomats in response to US sanctions against Russia, as had been recommended by the Russian Foreign Ministry, and would “not resort to irresponsible ‘kitchen’ diplomacy.”
Trump responded with kind words for Putin, tweeting Friday that he was “very smart” for withholding reciprocal sanctions on the United States, at least for the time being.
The Obama administration said its measures were in response to allegations that Russia had interfered in the 2016 US presidential election campaign.
“It is regrettable that the Obama Administration is ending its term in this manner,” said Putin. “Nevertheless, I offer my New Year greetings to President Obama and his family.”
In his annual greetings statement, Putin also congratulated Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II and Prime Minister Theresa May, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Chinese President Xi Jinping, French President François Hollande, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, among others.
Former heads of state and politicians, including former US Presidents George W. Bush and George H.W. Bush, former French President Nicolas Sarkozy, and former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, also received greetings from the Russian President.
Obama, however, was not mentioned in this year’s message.
Putin also congratulated Pope Francis, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, UN Secretary-General-elect Antonio Guterres, International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde and International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach.