35 Russian diplomats expelled by Obama arrive in Moscow

Moscow: The 35 Russian diplomats declared “persona non grata” by the US government arrived in Moscow early Monday morning, media reports said.

The plane of the Russian government’s Rossiya Special Flight Detachment, carrying the diplomats and their families landed in Moscow after departing from Washington’s Dulles International Airport on Sunday afternoon, Tass news agency reported.

On Thursday, US President Barack Obama accused the Russian diplomats of participating in an alleged Kremlin-orchestrated cyber attack to influence the US presidential election and took the decision.

The 35 diplomats left the US with their families on Sunday, a senior State Department official who spoke on condition of anonymity told Efe news reported.

Obama had given the Russian diplomats 72 hours to leave the country, and also ordered the closure of the Russian government’s two compounds in New York and Maryland.

The US also announced economic sanctions involving the asset freezing of Russia’s two top intelligence agencies: Main Intelligence Directorate and the Federal Security Service.

These were Obama’s heaviest sanctions in the last eight years of his government in response to the cyber attacks allegedly perpetrated by foreign state actors.

Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin, who repeatedly denied the involvement, announced that he would not expel any US diplomat in retaliation for the sanctions, although he reserved “the right to take measures in response” in the future.

Putin also said that “further steps to rebuild Russian-American relations” would depend on the policies that President-elect Donal Trump pursued after January 20.