The plane carrying 35 expelled Russian diplomats and their family members has touched down in Moscow. The special plane left Washington on Sunday post-noon local time and landed in the Russian capital early on Monday, 2 January.

"The plane has taken off," Nikolai Lakhonin, a spokesperson for the Russian diplomatic mission in the US was quoted as saying after the flight departed. The plane, Rossiya airline's special Fight Detachment, had touched down the Moscow airport at about 2am local time (11pm GMT).

The children of Russian envoys have been invited to a New Year Party by the Russian President Vladimir Putin, said the press service of the presidential office. The invitation was announced to the diplomats' children on the flight while they are en route from Washington to Moscow.

The diplomats have been declared persona non grata by Washington in a diplomatic strike. The US President Barack Obama said the high-ranking diplomats are being ejected in response to the alleged Russian involvement in the hacking of US Democratic Party during the presidential elections.

Washington had given 72 hours for the envoys and their families to leave the US soil after shutting down two compounds.

Though enraged, Russia is yet to respond to the crackdown as Moscow is likely to wait until the new administration, led by incoming President Donald Trump, takes charge in another three weeks.

Putin had said Kremlin would not "stoop to the level of the so-called 'cat-fight'" by expelling American diplomats from Russia. He added that in response to the "unfriendly actions by the outgoing US administration," he is inviting the children of the US diplomats for the New Year celebrations in Kremlin.

Obama Putin
From left: US President Barack Obama, Russian President Vladimir Putin Getty Images