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Russia expels 23 British diplomats as nerve toxin attack crisis deepens

Thompson Reuters

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MOSCOW — Russia has expelled 23 British diplomats on Saturday in a carefully calibrated retaliatory move against London, which has accused the Kremlin of orchestrating a nerve toxin attack on a former Russian double agent and his daughter in southern England.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry ministry issued a statement saying 23 employees of the British embassy in Moscow have been declared personae non gratae.

The Ministry summoned the British ambassador, Laurie Bristow, to a meeting on Saturday morning in central Moscow at its headquarters during which he was informed of the retaliatory measures.

The diplomats must leave within a week. It also announced the operation of the British Council in Russia will be ceased given its ‘unregulated status’.

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Russia said it was also shutting down the activities of the British Council, which fosters cultural links between the two countries, and Britain’s consulate-general in St. Petersburg.

The move, which was tougher than expected, followed Britain’s decision on Wednesday to expel 23 Russian diplomats over the attack in the English city of Salisbury which left former Russian spy Sergei Skripal, 66, and his daughter Yulia Skripal, 33, critically ill in hospital.

Moscow announced the measures on the eve of a presidential election which incumbent Vladimir Putin should comfortably win.

The Foreign Ministry said Moscow’s measures were a response to what it called Britain’s “provocative actions and groundless accusations”.

It warned London it stood ready to take further measures in the event of more “unfriendly steps”.

Relations between London and Moscow have crashed to a post-Cold War low over the Salisbury attack, the first known offensive use of a nerve agent in Europe since World War Two.

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Maldives opposition legislator Ibrahim Mohamed Solih wins presidency

Gorkha Post

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MALE — Maldives opposition legislator Ibrahim Mohamed Solih has beaten incumbent Abdulla Yameen according to provisional results, the country’s Elections Commission says.

Results released by the Elections Commission showed Mr Solih securing 133,808 votes (58.3 percent) compared to the 95,526 for incumbent Abdulla Yameen. The voter turnout was over 88 per cent out of the 262,000-strong electorate.

The Maldives government has acknowledged the opposition’s victory after the vote on Sunday, a surprise defeat for President Abdulla Yameen who was widely expected to win.

There were no other candidates.

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Mr Solih had the backing of a united opposition trying to oust Mr Yameen, but struggled for visibility with the electorate, with local media fearful of falling afoul of heavy-handed decrees and reporting restrictions.

“I call on Yameen to respect the will of the people and bring about a peaceful, smooth transfer of power,” Solih said on television, shortly after interim results from the country’s election commission.

“We have won this election with a comfortable majority,” Solih said.

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