Theresa May says UK to expel 23 Russian diplomats, Kremlin to retaliate

British Prime Minister Theresa May said on Wednesday she had come to the conclusion that Russia was culpable for the attempted murder of Sergei Skripal. (Screenshot)
Updated 14 March 2018
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Theresa May says UK to expel 23 Russian diplomats, Kremlin to retaliate

LONDON: British Prime Minister Theresa May said on Wednesday she had come to the conclusion that Russia was culpable for the attempted murder of Sergei Skripal and his daughter.
In a speech in the British Parliament soon after Yakovenko's statement, Prime Minister Theresa May said Britain would expel 23 Russian diplomats, describing it as the single biggest expulsion in over 30 years.
Skripal, 66, and his daughter Yulia, 33, were found slumped unconscious on a bench outside a shopping centre in the genteel southern English city of Salisbury on March 4.
They have been in a critical condition in hospital ever since.
"There is no alternative conclusion, other than that the Russian state was culpable for the attempted murder of Mr Skripal and his daughter, and for threatening the lives of other British citizens in Salisbury,” May said.
“This represents an unlawful use of force by the Russian state against the United Kingdom," she said. “Under the Vienna Convention, the United Kingdom will now expel 23 Russian diplomats who have been identified as undeclared intelligence officers," May told parliament. “They have just one week to leave.”

May said the biggest expulsions from London in 30 years would degrade Russian intelligence capabilities in Britain for years to come.
“We will freeze Russian state assets wherever we have the evidence that they may be used to threaten the life or property of UK nationals or residents,” May said.
Russia's Ambassador to Britain Alexander Yakovenko warned London on Wednesday of reciprocal measures if Britain expelled Russian diplomats. The Russian embassy to the UK said all responsibility for the deterioration of the Russia-UK relationship lies with the current political leadership of Britain.
Moscow refused to comply with Britain's demands that it explain how Novichok — a form of nerve agent developed by the Soviet Union during the Cold War — came to be used in Britain. Russia said the U.K. must first provide samples of the poison collected by investigators.
Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Wednesday that Britain has offered "baseless accusations which are not backed up by any evidence." He said Russia would cooperate with the investigation but does not see Britain's willingness to reciprocate.
"We hope reason will prevail and other countries will think hard how serious the evidence against Russia is," he said.
Russia has claimed that the nerve agent could have come from another former Soviet country, pointing to Moscow's foe, Ukraine.
Lawmaker Vladimir Gutenev, a member of the state commission for chemical disarmament, said Russia had scrapped its stockpile of Novichok.
"It is hard to say what may be happening in neighboring countries," he was quoted as saying by the Interfax news agency.
Meanwhile, the UK foreign office has told Britons travelling to Russia to be aware of the possibility of anti-British sentiment or harassment. It also advised Britons in the country to avoid commenting on politics publicly.
May also told parliament that British ministers and the royal family will not be attending the World Cup in Russia later this year after spy attack.


Afghan Taliban frown at militants’ Eid cease-fire selfies

Updated 9 min 58 sec ago
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Afghan Taliban frown at militants’ Eid cease-fire selfies

  • Both the Afghan government and the militants declared temporary cease-fires for the end-of-Ramadan Eid Al-Fitr holiday
  • The Taliban cease-fire ended on Sunday. The government extended its cease-fire with the Taliban, which had been due to end on Wednesday, June 20, by 10 days

PESHAWAR, Pakistan: The Afghan Taliban are angry at their members swapping selfies with soldiers and government officials during their three-day cease-fire, a senior Taliban official said on Monday, after the militants roamed at will through cities before the truce ended.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, the Taliban official also said Pakistan had wanted the Taliban to include US and other foreign troops in the cease-fire, but the Taliban’s leadership and supreme commander, ‎Sheikh Haibatullah Akhunzada, did not agree.
“Last night, an emergency meeting was called and all the commanders were informed and directed to take strict disciplinary action against all those Taliban members who visited citizens and took pictures with the Afghan authorities,” he told Reuters.
Some Taliban seen taking selfies w‎ith Afghan government forces and officials had been warned, the Taliban official said.
Both the Afghan government and the militants declared temporary cease-fires for the end-of-Ramadan Eid Al-Fitr holiday, leading to fraternization between the two sides as militants emerged from their hideouts to enter towns and cities.
The government cease-fire did not include the Islamic State militant group and the Taliban did not include US-led foreign forces in theirs.
The Taliban cease-fire ended on Sunday. The government extended its cease-fire with the Taliban, which had been due to end on Wednesday, June 20, by 10 days.
Another Taliban commander, also speaking on condition of anonymity, said that some attacks had been planned in the southern Afghan province of Helmand where short clashes were reported, according to the spokesman for the Helmand governor.
Anti-war activists set off on a peace march last month, spending the fasting month crossing harsh, sun-baked countryside en route to Kabul where they arrived on Monday, their numbers swelling and ebbing at different points along the route.
Abdul Rahman Mangal, spokesman for the Maidan Wardak provincial government, next to Kabul, said the Taliban attacked two security checkpoints in the Saidabad district in the early hours of Monday which “left casualties.”
Clashes were also reported in Faryab in the northwest and Laghman, to the east of Kabul, and Nangarhar, on the border with Pakistan and the scene of two bomb blasts over the weekend, one of which was claimed by Islamic State.
While many war-weary Afghans welcomed the cease-fires and the fraternization between the combatants, some have criticized the government cease-fire, which allowed the Taliban to flow into cities, though the militants said they were withdrawing.
The Taliban are fighting US-led NATO forces combined under the Resolute Support mission, and Ghani’s US-backed government to restore sharia, or Islamic law, after their ouster by US-led forces in 2001.
But Afghanistan has been at war for four decades, ever since the Soviet invasion in 1979.