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Monday, January 2, 2017, 12:27

Expelled Russian diplomats leave US

By Reuters
Expelled Russian diplomats leave US
In this Dec 16, 2016 photo, President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference in the briefing room of the White House in Washington. President Barack Obama imposed sanctions on Russian officials and intelligence services in retaliation for Russia's interference in the US presidential election by hacking American political sites and email accounts. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais / AP)

MOSCOW – Russian diplomats who were expelled by order of US President Barack Obama left Washington on Sunday, Russian news agencies reported, citing Russia's embassy.

A top aide to Donald Trump said the White House sanctions on Russia may be disproportionate

"The plane took off, everyone has left," RIA quoted the embassy's press service as saying.

Obama ordered the expulsion of 35 Russian suspected spies and imposed sanctions on two Russian intelligence agencies over the hacking of US political groups during the 2016 presidential election.

Russian President Vladimir Putin decided not to expel anyone in retaliation, saying he would consider the actions of President-elect Donald Trump, who takes office on Jan 20, when deciding on further steps in Russia-US relations.

Meanwhile, a top aide to President-elect Donald Trump said in an interview aired on Sunday that the White House may have disproportionately punished Russia by ordering the expulsion of 35 suspected Russian spies.

Incoming White House press secretary Sean Spicer said on ABC's "This Week" that Trump will be asking questions of US intelligence agencies after President Barack Obama imposed sanctions last week on two Russian intelligence agencies over what he said was their involvement in hacking political groups in the 2016 US presidential election. Obama also ordered Russia to vacate two US facilities as part of the tough sanctions on Russia.

"One of the questions that we have is why the magnitude of this? I mean you look at 35 people being expelled, two sites being closed down, the question is, is that response in proportion to the actions taken? Maybe it was; maybe it wasn't but you have to think about that," Spicer said.

Trump is to have briefings with intelligence agencies this week after he returns to New York on Sunday.

On Saturday, Trump expressed continued skepticism over whether Russia was responsible for computer hacks of Democratic Party officials.

"I think it's unfair if we don't know. It could be somebody else. I also know things that other people don't know so we cannot be sure," Trump said.

He said he would disclose some information on the issue on Tuesday or Wednesday, without elaborating. It is unclear if, upon taking office on Jan 20, he would seek to roll back Obama's actions, which mark a post-Cold War low in US-Russian ties.

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