The Kremlin said on Monday it would wait for the official results of the U.S. presidential election before commenting on its outcome, and that it had noted incumbent Donald Trump's announcement of legal challenges related to the vote.
President Vladimir Putin has remained silent on the issue since Democrat Joe Biden clinched the presidency on Saturday, four days after the Nov. 3 election, clearing the threshold of 270 Electoral College votes needed to win the White House.
In the vote's run-up, Putin had appeared to hedge his bets, frowning on Biden's anti-Russian rhetoric but welcoming his comments on nuclear arms control. Putin had also defended Biden's son, Hunter, against criticism from Trump.
Speaking to reporters on a conference call, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Monday that Moscow deemed it better to now wait before congratulating anyone.
"We think it appropriate to wait for the official vote count," said Peskov.
Asked why in 2016 Putin had congratulated Trump soon after he had won the Electoral College and beaten Democrat Hillary Clinton, Peskov said there was an obvious difference this time round.
"You can see that there are certain legal procedures that have been announced by the current president. That is why the situations are different and we therefore think it appropriate to wait for an official announcement," said Peskov.
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He noted that Putin had repeatedly said he was ready to work with any U.S. leader and that Russia hoped it could establish dialogue with a new U.S. administration and find a way to normalise troubled bilateral relations.
"President Putin has repeatedly said he will show respect for whatever choice the American people makes," Peskov said.
Moscow's ties with Washington sank to post-Cold War lows in 2014 when Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine. Biden was serving as vice president under President Barack Obama at the time.
Relations soured further over U.S. allegations that Moscow had meddled in the 2016 U.S. presidential election to try to tilt the vote in Trump's favour, something the Kremlin denied.