2017-1-10 13:33



December 31, 2016

From Washington, this is VOA news. I'm David Byrd reporting.

President-elect Donald Trump has praised Russian President Vladimir Putin's decision not to expel U.S. diplomats after the Obama administration imposed new sanctions against Russia.

On Twitter Friday, the president-elect said "Great move on delay by V. Putin. I always knew he was very smart!"

Earlier, Putin had released a statement that said Russia would not expel any U.S. diplomats in retaliation for sanctions imposed because of Russian intelligence agencies' interference in November's elections.

President Obama announced the new round of sanctions Thursday after U.S. intelligence agencies concluded that Russia had directed computer attacks on the Democratic National Committee headquarters and Hillary Clinton's campaign manager's accounts.

Thirty-five Russian government officials were given 72 hours to leave the United States for acting in a manner inconsistent with their diplomatic status and consular activities.

Trump's support for Putin puts him at odds not only with the Obama administration but also with members of his own party.

Republican Senator John McCain is visiting Ukraine and said Friday that Russian hacking of American computers is an act of war.

"When you attack a country, it's an act of war. And so we have to make sure that there is a price to pay, so that we can perhaps persuade the Russians to stop this kind of attacks on our very fundamentals of democracy."

McCain, the chairman of the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee, has scheduled a hearing for next Thursday on foreign cyber threats.

For more on these stories, visit our website voanews.com. This is VOA news.

A nationwide cease-fire appeared to be largely holding Friday across most of Syria. However, there were clashes near Damascus and Syrian government airstrikes against rebels in northern Hama province.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported Syrian government warplanes carried out at least 16 airstrikes against rebels in northern Hama province.

The Observatory added that Wadi Barada near Damascus had also been attacked, but the Syrian military denied that claim.

Major cities around the world are focusing on security while anticipating big crowds at New Year's celebrations to ring in 2017.

Added security is in place in many cities because of the threat of terrorism after attacks this year in Nice, France, and Berlin, Germany.

The German capital has added concrete barriers and armored cars near the traditional Brandenburg Gate celebration venue to protect crowds from vehicles.

Paris canceled fireworks at the Eiffel Tower again this year, but a display will be staged along the Champs-Elysees, which has been fortified by armed soldiers and traffic barriers.

In central London, armed police will be deployed on board underground trains for the first time.

New York City officials have positioned dozens of dump trucks weighted down with loads of sand in the Times Square area to act as a protective barrier.

Meanwhile, they tested the giant crystal ball that will drop in New York's Times Square at midnight Saturday.

The 3 and two-thirds meter wide ball is covered with 2,688 Waterford Crystal triangles. Inside, it is illuminated by more than 32,000 LED lights which can produce a palette of more than 16 million colors.

Tim Tompkins is with the Times Square Alliance: "Because of 30,000 LEDs, you can have 16 million different color combinations. It did all shift and change all the time as it does throughout the evening."

Outgoing U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is scheduled to flip the switch that will start the ball's descent just seconds before midnight in New York on Saturday.

A funeral Mass was held for the late Zsa Zsa Gabor in Beverly Hills Friday. During the Mass at Good Shepherd Catholic Church, Father Edward Benioff told the crowd that Gabor was a Hollywood legend, an icon known for beauty and for talent.

Her husband, Frederic von Anhalt, was seated in the front of the church close to where Gabor's ashes were displayed in a gold rectangular box.

Gabor died December 18 at the age of 99.

For more, visit our website. I'm David Byrd in Washington.

That's the latest world news from VOA.

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