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Russia expels diplomats from 23 countries

IANS Indo Asian News Service

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MOSCOW — Russia has expelled diplomats from 23 more countries on Friday in retaliation against the West as spy crisis escalates, in the biggest wave of tit-for-tat expulsions in recent memory.

The Russian foreign ministry said it had summoned the heads of missions from 23 countries — most of them European Union member states — to tell them that some of their diplomats had to leave.

The diplomats from France, Canada, Germany, Australia and other countries were earlier seen arriving at the Russian foreign ministry in flagged official cars.

France, Germany, Canada and Poland each said that Russia was expelling four of their diplomats. Among the other countries that had similarly been told to pull their envoys were the Netherlands, Sweden, the Czech Republic, Finland, Lithuania and Norway.

Thirteen Ukrainian diplomats should also leave Russia.

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The moves came in retaliation for the coordinated expulsion of Russian diplomats by Britain and its allies over a nerve agent attack against former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in the English city of Salisbury on March 4.

“This is certainly not a surprise,” Dutch Foreign Minister Stef Blok said through a spokeswoman, referring to Moscow’s expulsion of two of the country’s diplomats.

Blok called upon Russia to cooperate with the ongoing investigation into the attack by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

The Russian foreign ministry also gave Britain a month to cut the number of diplomatic staff in Russia to the same number Russia has in Britain.

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Russian rocket fails in the mid air, crew lands safely

Thompson Reuters

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COSMODROME—Booster rocket carrying a Soyuz spacecraft with a Russian and US astronaut on board headed for the International Space Station failed in mid-air on Thursday, forcing the crew to make an emergency landing.

U.S. astronaut Nick Hague and Russian cosmonaut Alexei Ovchinin landed safely without any harm.

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Russian Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Borisov, quoted by Interfax, said the problem occurred when the first and second stages of the booster rocket were in the process of separating.

The rocket was launched from the Soviet-era cosmodrome in Baikonur, Kazakhstan. A Reuters reporter who observed the launch from around 1 km away said that it had gone smoothly in its initial stage.

“Search and rescue teams are in the air and heading towards the expected touchdown location for the Soyuz spacecraft returning to Earth carrying two crew members,” NASA said in a statement.

 

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