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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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176 trafficked Nepalis rescued from Indo-Myanmar border

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KATHMANDU — At least 176 Nepali men and women, who were being trafficked into Myanmar, have been rescued by Manipur police and activists from different parts of Manipur, a northeastern state of India, in the last two days.

On their second day of rescue operation, the Tengnoupal police have rescued atleast 20 Nepalis including 5 women and 15 men, from a Hotel in Moreh town,Imphal Free Press, an English-language daily published from Manipur has reported.

The Moreh police have rescued as many as 60 nationals of Nepal including 45 women and 15 men.

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Earlier, over 105 Nepali women were rescued from Moreh and Imphal, the report stated.

The police team have also arrested the main suspect in the trafficking case identified as Madan Kumar Kharel, 52, Hailing from 07 Prithvinagar, Jhapa, Nepal.

The accused is reportedly responsible for bringing 20 of the 40 Nepali girls who were rescued from Moreh on Friday.

Meanwhile, Police also rescued 51 Nepalis from Imphal including 38 women and 13 men during Saturday rescue operations.

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