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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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Saudi Arabia lifts ban on women driving

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RIYADH — Saudi Arabia has lifted ban on women driving on Sunday ending Saudi women to rely on drivers, male relatives, taxis or ride-hailing services to get around.

Saudi Arabia’s government, earlier this month, began issuing licenses to women who already held driving licenses from other countries, including Britain, Lebanon and Canada. The women took a brief driving test before receiving their new licenses.

While Saudi Arabia’s government has been taking steps to legalize female drivers, police last month arrested several women who campaigned for the right to drive as well as campaigned against the country’s male guardianship system.

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Rights groups say four women still remain in custody, facing possible trial.

Women are legally required to get approval from a male guardian for legal decisions in Saudi Arabia. These can involve education, employment, marriage, travel and medical treatment.

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