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Russia expels 60 US diplomats in diplomatic ‘tit-for-tat’

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MOSCOW — Russia has ordered 60 US diplomats to leave by April 5 and close the US consulate in St. Petersburg, in a response mirroring the mass expulsion of Russian diplomats initiated by the US and UK, the Foreign Ministry says

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said it had declared persona non grata 58 diplomats in Moscow and two general consulate officials in Yekaterinburg in the row over the poisoning of former Russian double-agent Sergei Skripal on March 4.

US ambassador to Moscow, Jon Huntsman, has been summoned to the Foreign Ministry and told the news by deputy FM Sergey Ryabkov, Lavrov said at the press conference following a meeting with the special UN envoy for Syria Staffan De Mistura.

Moments before the ministry announcement, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Russia would respond in kind to the mass expulsion of diplomats by Western governments which include, apart from the United States and Britain, most member states of NATO and the European Union.

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The other countries affected are France, Germany and Poland would each have four of their diplomats in Moscow sent home, Ukraine would forfeit 13 diplomats, and Denmark, Albania and Spain would each have two of their embassy staff expelled.

Russia has already retaliated in kind after Britain initially expelled 23 diplomats.

The White House said Moscow’s decision marked a further deterioration in the US-Russia relationship.

“Russia’s response was not unanticipated and the United States will deal with it,” the White House said in a statement without elaborating.

The US State Department, however, indicated earlier that Russia’s decision to expel the diplomats showed Moscow was not interested in diplomacy, and Washington reserved the right to take further action.

The attack on 66-year-old Mr Skripal and his daughter, which Britain has blamed on Russian President Vladimir Putin and said was caused by a Soviet-era nerve agent Novichok left on the door of their home in England, has driven relations between Russia and the West to a new post-Cold War low.

Russia has denied involvement in the attack on the Skripals and said it suspected the British secret services were trying to frame Russia to stoke anti-Russian hysteria.

Agencies

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Massive fire guts property worth millions in Itahari

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ITAHARI- Goods, raw materials and equipments worth over Rs 20 million were gutted when a fire broke out at the Laxmi Foam Industry at Khanar of Itahari Sub-metropolitan City-10 in Sunsari district this morning.

It is said the fire suddenly broke out from the warehouse area of the industry where the ready-made goods are stored. Police have speculated that the fire started at 4 am when the industry had already closed and there were no workers inside.

The industry is owned by Bhanu Tibadewala. According the Shankar Thakur, the manager at the industry, the raw materials of doormat and important machinery at the industry have also been damaged in the inferno.

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Nepal Army, the Armed Police Force and the Nepal Police personnel as well as the Itahari fire brigade made attempts to douse the fire after some time it started.

Fire trucks from Dharan, Inaruwa, Biratnagar, Duhabi and Sundarharaincha were immediately called into service thereby bringing the huge inferno under control and preventing further damage, said Shiva Kumar Shrestha, Deputy Superintendent of Police at the Area Police Office Itahari.

He said the cause of the fire is not yet ascertained and the extent of damage is being assessed.

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