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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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Constitution Day today

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KATHMANDU — The Constitution Day is being observed throughout the country by organising various programs on Wednesday.

The government has organised a special function at the Nepal Army pavilion to mark the third anniversary of the Constitution, promulgated by an elected body after six decades of political struggle.

President Bidya Devi Bhandari,Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli, Chief Justice, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Chairman of the National Assembly, deputy prime ministers, ministers, high-ranking government officials, security chiefs, heads of diplomatic missions based in Kathmandu, among others, are attending the function.

The government had formed a main organising committee chaired by Prime Minister Oli to celebrate the event.

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An aerial display of a banner reading ‘Constitution Day-2075’, balloons, and flowers were showered from helicopter as parts of the celebration.

Similarly, Nepal Army, Nepal Police, Armed Police Force and Nepal Scouts are set to perform march past.

Meanwhile, President Bidhya Devi Bhandari and Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli have extended best wishes to fellow citizens on the occasion of Constitution Day and National Day 2075.

In her message, President Bhandari said it was a matter of happiness for all to have an environment conducive to prosper democratic political system of Nepal through constitutional roadmap.

She said that the Constitution has envisaged creating an equitable society based on social justice with a goal to develop a socialism-oriented economy.

“I think it is the timely need for all the actors including people-representative institutions, political parties, state organs and entire Nepali people to embrace the letter and spirit of the Constitution to expedite socio-economic development”.

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Likewise, Prime Minister Oli expressed deep tribute to the martyrs who laid down their lives and also owed heartfelt gratitude to entire people of the country for their substantial contributions to bound the country to rule of law.

He said that the consitution, which was framed through the Constituent Assembly after a seven-decade long wait not only fulfilled people’s aspiration and optimism but also included principles and values.

Prime Minister Oli has also said that the Constitution has guaranteed fundamental rights and freedom to all citizens without any discrimination.

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