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Putin won't congratulate Biden before 'official results' and 'legal procedures' are completed

Russian President Vladimir Putin – whose government worked to "denigrate Former Vice President Joe Biden" during the campaign, according to U.S. intelligence – will hold off on congratulating the Democratic president-elect until the official result and "legal procedures" are completed, his spokesman told reporters Monday. 

"We consider it correct to wait for the official results of the elections to be announced," Putin's press secretary Dmitry Peskov said on a conference call, the Russian news agency Tass reported

Putin did not demonstrate similar restraint in 2016, sending Trump a congratulatory telegram after news media organizations projected him the winner in his campaign against Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. A special counsel investigation later determined the Kremlin had conducted a "sweeping and systematic" interference operation in that election because it believed it would "benefit from a Trump presidency." 

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Peskov told reporters there was an "absolutely obvious" difference between the 2016 election, which Trump won by comparably slim margins to Biden in a handful of key states, and this year's contest. He cited the president's legal challenges to the election results. 

"They are facing certain legal procedures that were announced by the incumbent president, which makes this situation different. So we deem it as correct to wait for the official announcement," Peskov said. 

Trump has refused to concede the election, making baseless allegations it was "rigged" and unsubstantiated claims mailed-in ballots constituted an effort to "steal" it. His campaign has filed a series of lawsuits, all of which have already been tossed out or do not involve enough ballots to change the election outcome even if successful. The Trump campaign has announced it would launch more substantive legal challenges Monday, but it is unclear what they might entail. 

In August, National Counterintelligence and Security Center Director William Evanina said in a statement, "Russia is using a range of measures to primarily denigrate former Vice President Biden and what it sees as an anti-Russia 'establishment.' This is consistent with Moscow’s public criticism of him when he was Vice President for his role in the Obama Administration’s policies on Ukraine and its support for the anti-Putin opposition inside Russia." 

Evanina added that "Kremlin-linked actors are also seeking to boost President Trump’s candidacy on social media and Russian television." 

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Russia is also suspected to be behind a misinformation campaign to implicate Biden and his son, Hunter Biden, in overseas corruption.

Yet, Peskov was optimistic "it will be possible to build dialogue with the next U.S. president and agree on ways to improve bilateral relations." He said cooperation between the U.S. and Russia was important for security and stability, "not only our two nations but in fact all nations in the world." 

The heads of many countries, including America's closest allies, congratulated Biden Saturday after he was projected the winner. But not all leaders were quick to offer congratulations. Like Putin, Chinese President Xi Jinping is holding off. 

"We noticed that Mr. Biden has declared election victory,” China’s foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin told reporters. "We understand that the U.S. presidential election result will be determined following U.S. law and procedures." Wang added that China would "follow the international practices" before weighing in on the result. 

In 2016, Xi sent Trump congratulations on his victory the day after the election. 

The Trump administration has had an often contentious relationship with China over trade, technology, copyright infringements and security. Though Biden called Xi a "thug" during the campaign and is expected to maintain a tough stance on China, analysts expect a Biden White House will have a less rocky relationship with the communist regime than the current administration. 

In August, Evanina said China views Trump as "unpredictable" and "prefers" he not win reelection. But in contrast with Russia, Evanina did not outline any efforts to interfere in the election outside of statements critical of the Trump administration on various issues. 

While hedging their bets on the election outcome, Wang said the government in Beijing would "always maintain that China and the U.S. should strengthen dialogue and community" and manage "differences based on mutual respect."

Contributing: The Associated Press