MOSCOW (Reuters) - The Kremlin said on Monday Russian President Vladimir Putin had taken a decision to hold off responding to new U.S. sanctions last year independently and had not been influenced by former U.S. national security adviser Michael Flynn.
Flynn pleaded guilty on Friday to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russia and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors delving into the actions of President Donald Trump’s inner circle before he took office.
U.S. prosecutors said Flynn and Sergei Kislyak, then Russian ambassador to the U.S., last December discussed economic sanctions that the Obama administration had just imposed on Moscow for allegedly interfering in the U.S. presidential election, something Moscow denies.
Obama at the time expelled 35 Russian diplomats and the U.S. authorities seized two Russian diplomatic compounds in the United States.
But Putin said he would wait to see how relations developed with the new Trump administration before responding. Russia only went ahead and took retaliatory measures this summer.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Putin had taken the decision to hold off retaliating independently and had not known of Flynn’s alleged request to Russia to refrain from an immediate response.
Flynn was not in a position to ask Kislyak, the then Russian Ambassador to the U.S., to do anything, said Peskov, calling the idea “absurd.”
“Of course Putin took the decision, it was his decision,” Peskov told a conference call with reporters.
“It (the decision) could not have been connected to any requests or recommendations. The president takes his decisions absolutely independently.”
Reporting by Andrew Osborn and Dmitry Solovyov; Editing by Christian Lowe