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Britain to expel 23 Russian diplomats over ex-spy’s poisoning

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LONDON — British Prime Minister Theresa May has ordered to expell 23 Russian diplomats on Wednesday over the poisoning of a former Russian spy on British soil, raising tensions between the two countries to a level not seen since the heights of the Cold War.

Her statement to Parliament came after Moscow rejected a British deadline for Russia to explain itself over this month’s attack on the former spy, Sergei V Skripal, and his daughter.

She vowed to crack down on Russian spies, corrupt elites and ill-gotten wealth in Britain.

Russia,however, denies any involvement in the attack on ex-spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia, who have been in a critical condition in hospital since they were found unconscious on March 4 on a bench in the southern English city of Salisbury.

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Ms May had given Moscow until midnight on Tuesday to explain how the Soviet-made Novichok nerve agent came to be deployed on the streets of Salisbury, saying either the Russian state was responsible or had lost control of a stock of the substance.

She announced the potential freezing of Russian state assets that pose a security threat, new laws to counter hostile state activity and said British ministers and royals would not attend the football World Cup in Russia later this year.

The two countries have engaged in a worsening clash in recent days, with Britain widening an investigation into the incident and courting friends and allies to increase pressure on Russia, while Moscow has threatened to retaliate over any punitive action.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said Moscow would swiftly retaliate against the British measures which had been undertaken for ‘short-sighted political ends’.

“The British Government has made a choice in favour of confrontation with Russia,” it said.

Agencies

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32 Chinese nationals killed in North Korea bus accident

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BEIJING — 32 Chinese tourists and four North Koreans died in a major bus accident in North Korea, China’s foreign ministry said on Monday.

Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said two Chinese nationals seriously injured and left in critical condition in the accident, which occurred in North Hwanghae province.

Chinese visitors make up about 80 percent of all foreign tourists to North Korea, says a South Korean think-tank, the Korea Maritime Institute, which estimates that tourism generates revenue of about $44 million each year for the isolated country.

China’s state-run broadcaster CCTV broadcast footage of an upside-down, mangled bus in the dark amid rainfall and a patient being treated at a hospital.

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North Hwanghae province, the North Korean border region just north of Seoul, includes Kaesong, the capital of Korea’s Koryo Dynasty (918-1392).

As the home for historic monuments and sites, the ancient capital has become North Korea’s second World Heritage site after the Complex of Koguryo Tombs in Pyongyang.

Chinese diplomats have rushed to the scene of Sunday’s accident in North Hwanghae province, the foreign ministry said.

In a Twitter message earlier on Monday, Chinese state television’s English-language channel said a tour bus had fallen off a bridge, killing more than 30 people, but later deleted the message.

State television’s main Chinese-language news channel showed images of a crashed blue bus with its wheels in the air, in footage taken in pouring rain in the dark.

It showed at least one person being treated in hospital, but gave no details of casualties.

Agencies

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