WASHINGTON -  US President-elect Donald Trump praised Russian President Vladimir Putin for deciding not to retaliate against new American sanctions over Russian hacking during the presidential election.

"Great move on delay (by V. Putin) - I always knew he was very smart!" the president-elect tweeted.

The Russian embassy in the United States retweeted Trump's post.

The praise came a day after President Barak Obama, responding to Russian efforts to intervene in the 2016 election via cyber-espionage, announced economic sanctions on Russian intelligence officials and institutions, the expulsion of 35 Russian diplomats suspected of being spies, and the shuttering of two Russian facilities in the United States.

While Russian officials recommended expelling US officials from their country, Putin announced Friday he would not do so, partly in deference to the incoming Trump administration.

Trump has questioned whether Russia was involved in hacking the emails of Democratic Party officials, and he brushed off the sanctions imposed by Obama. “It's time for our country to move on to bigger and better things," Trump said in a statement Thursday night.

He added, "nevertheless, in the interest of our country and its great people, I will meet with leaders of the intelligence community next week in order to be updated on the facts of this situation."

That briefing will be scheduled for next week, Trump transition spokesman Sean US intelligence officials have accused the Russians of hacking Democratic emails in an effort to help Trump win the election.

While Putin and Russia deny the allegations, the Obama administration is a preparing a report on the cyber attacks, and Congress is likely to conduct an investigation of its own.

Trump tweeted about the Russian leader on a day in which he continued to hold meetings at his Mar-a-Lago estate in South Florida about plans for his inauguration and administration.

Donald Trump sent New Year's greetings to his "many enemies" in a backhanded tweet Saturday in which he gloated over his political conquests. "Happy New Year to all, including to my many enemies and those who have fought me and lost so badly they just don't know what to do. Love!" the US president-elect wrote.

The message on Twitter, Trump's preferred mode of communication, caps a year in which he overcame long odds to vanquish 16 other Republicans vying to become the party's White House nominee. He then upended Democrat Hillary Clinton in last month's general election - her formidable political machine and bigger campaign coffers notwithstanding - in a shock election upset.

Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Saturday that the year 2016 was "difficult" but congratulated his country on its accomplishments and on believing in itself.

The past year "was difficult, but the difficulties we came across united us," Putin said in his traditional New Year's greeting, which is shown at midnight and has already aired in the far-eastern regions of the country.

"The main thing is: we believe in ourselves, in our abilities, in our country. We are working, working successfully, and are accomplishing a lot," Putin said, extending a special greeting to those serving and working far from home.

"We have a huge, unique and beautiful country," he said, voicing hope that the next year brings "peace and prosperity to our great motherland, Russia."

Moscow reemerged as powerful international player in 2016, notably deepening its military presence in Syria and brokering a ceasefire in the war-torn country with Turkey, Iran and the conspicuous absence of Washington.

The end of the year also saw the expulsion on Thursday of 35 Russian diplomats from the United States, which accuses Russian intelligence agencies of orchestrating cyber interference in the US election campaign that led to Donald Trump's victory.

The diplomats and their close relatives, a total of 96 Russians, are set to fly out of the United States on a special government flight, and will likely celebrate the New Year on the plane.

 

SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT/Agencies