Putin plays Santa Claus to provoke US warmongers

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Vladimir Putin has invited the children of 35 US diplomats to visit the Kremlin in a provocative stunt aimed at embarrassing the outgoing US president.

The move was designed to rile Barack Obama’s administration after it chose to expel 35 Russian officials from the US amid claims the Kremlin interfered in the US election.

It came just days after Putin accused the US President of “irresponsible diplomacy”.

Invitations were sent to Moscow-based diplomats at the US embassy before Christmas, with the children of the 35 diplomats given the chance to see the Russian President’s festive tree.

The action is Russia’s latest attempt to undermine Barack Obama before he leaves office on January 20.

Russian diplomats at the UK embassy earlier tweeted that Mr Obama was a lame duck president.

Putin said: “All the children of American diplomats accredited in Russia, I invite you to the New Year’s and Christmas tree in the Kremlin.”

A US embassy spokesperson responded that diplomats “appreciated” the invite but did not comment on whether anyone had attended the event.

The move followed the expulsion last week of 35 Russian diplomats in retaliation for the hacking of email accounts linked to the Democratic Party.

US security officials believe Kremlin-backed hackers accessed the servers to help Trump win the presidency.

The emails, taken from Hillary Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta, were then released by Wikileaks.