Donald Trump has accused Russia of taking Crimea by force in a series of tweets seeking to distance himself from allegations his team has links with Russia.
"Crimea was TAKEN by Russia during the Obama Administration. Was Obama too soft on Russia?" he tweeted.
It comes as Russia insisted it did not intend to return Crimea to Ukraine after the White House said Mr Trump expected the annexed Black Sea peninsula to be returned.
Mr Trump's statement contradicts comments he made in an interview with ABC anchor George Stephanopoulos last year, when he said: “The people of Crimea, from what I've heard, would rather be with Russia than where they were."
His tweet about Crimea came amid a series of posts accusing US intelligence agencies of illegally giving information to the media over his team's alleged contact with Russian officials.
He also accused the "fake news media" of going "crazy" with "conspiracy theories and blind hatred".
Mr Trump went on to say to call intelligence agencies "very un-American!" and alleged they were giving out illegally giving out classified information "like candy".
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