MOSCOW (AP) — Russian President Vladimir Putin won’t congratulate President-elect Joe Biden until legal challenges to the U.S. election are resolved and the result is official, the Kremlin announced Monday.
Putin is one of a handful of world leaders who have not commented on Biden’s victory, which was called by major news organizations on Saturday. But President Donald Trump’s team has promised legal action in the coming days and refused to concede his loss, while alleging large-scale voter fraud, so far without proof.
When Trump won in 2016, Putin was prompt in offering congratulations — but Trump’s challenger in that election, Hillary Clinton, also conceded the day after the vote.
Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters Monday that this year is different.
“Obviously, you can see that certain legal procedures are coming there, which were announced by the incumbent president — therefore this situation is different, so we consider it correct to wait for the official announcement,” he said.
The leaders of China, Brazil and Turkey also are holdouts in offering congratulations. And Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador also said he would wait to comment until the legal challenges were resolved.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin offered a similar explanation of why President Xi Jinping has stayed silent.
“We understand the presidential election result will be determined following U.S. laws and procedures,” he said.
A senior Turkish official said Ankara also was waiting for the various legal challenges to be settled before congratulating “the winner.”
“Turkey will congratulate the winner as soon as the results of the election will become official as part of the respect it has for the U.S. people and democracy,” said Omer Celik, spokesman for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling party. “We are waiting for the final results … because there are objections and other disputes.”
Celik said Turkey knows both Trump and Biden and is prepared to work with “whichever wing” is the winner.
Peskov suggested that when the time comes, a congratulatory message from Putin would come with all the expected protocol.
“I remind you that Vladimir Putin said more than once that he will respect any choice of American people, and will be ready to work with any chosen president of the United States,” he said.
For now, Putin’s holding back allows a delay in addressing that fraught question of how to improve relations. Although Russian politicians widely lauded Trump’s election in 2016, expecting him to make good on his promises of improving ties, his administration disappointed Moscow by enacting sanctions, expelling scores of Russian diplomats in the wake of the poisoning of double agent Sergei Skripal in the U.K., and authorizing lethal weapons sales to Ukraine.
But Russia is characteristically wary of Democratic U.S. administrations because they tend to be more forward about criticizing Russia on human rights and democracy issues.