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Russia warns UK over ex-spy’s poisoning

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UNITED NATIONS — Russia has warned Britain it is ‘playing with fire and you’ll be sorry’ over its accusations that Moscow was to blame for poisoning a former Russian spy and his daughter.

It was the second showdown between Russia and Britain at the United Nations Security Council since the March 4 nerve agent attack on Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in an English town.

Russia, which requested the council meeting, denies any involvement.

Ms Skripal has since made her first public comment since the attack, while her father remains in a critical condition.

The attack has had major diplomatic ramifications, with mass expulsions of Russian and Western diplomats. The 15-member Security Council first met over the issue on March 14, at Britain’s request.

“We have told our British colleagues that, ‘You’re playing with fire and you’ll be sorry’,” Russian UN ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said during a more than 30-minute speech that attempted to poke holes in Britain’s allegations against Moscow.

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He suggested that anyone who watched television crime shows like Britain’s Midsomer Murders would know “hundreds of clever ways to kill someone” to illustrate the “risky and dangerous” nature of the method Britain says was used to target Skripal.

British police believe a nerve agent was left on the front door of the Salisbury home where Skripal lived after he was freed in a spy swap. He was a military intelligence colonel who betrayed dozens of Russian agents to Britain’s MI6 spy service.

“We believe that the UK’s actions stand up to any scrutiny,” British UN Ambassador Karen Pierce told the Security Council. “We have nothing to hide … but I do fear that Russia might have something to fear.”

“Allowing Russian scientists into an investigation where they are the most likely perpetrators of the crime in Salisbury would be like Scotland Yard inviting in Professor Moriarty,” Pierce told reporters earlier on Thursday, citing a character from “Sherlock Holmes.”

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China conduct live fire drill along southeast coastline

Thompson Reuters

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BEIJING — China’s military has conducted live-fire drills along the southeast coastline, state television reported, but it was unclear if these were the same exercises that had been flagged as taking place in the sensitive Taiwan Strait.

The government had said the drills would happen on Wednesday off the city of Quanzhou, in between two groups of islands close to China’s coast but that Taiwan has controlled since 1949 when defeated Nationalist forces fled to the island at the end of the Chinese civil war.

Chinese state media has said the drills were a direct response to “provocations” by Taiwan leaders related to what China fears are moves to push for the self-ruled island’s formal independence. China claims Taiwan as its sacred territory.

Late on Wednesday, Chinese state television showed footage of helicopters firing missiles during an exercise it said was happening on China’s southeast coast.

State television only showed pictures of helicopters, with no mention of ships or other military equipment such as tanks or amphibious assault vehicles.

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The exercises took place from 8 a.m. (0000GMT) until midnight, the report said, giving the same time frame for the previously announced drills in the Taiwan Strait.

The Defence Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the exercise, and whether it was the same ones previously reported to be happening in the Taiwan Strait.

Taiwan on Wednesday denounced the exercises, saying Beijing was using “cheap verbal intimidation and saber rattling” to threaten the island.

Taiwan is one of China’s most sensitive issues and a potential military flashpoint. China has ramped up military exercises around Taiwan in the past year, including flying bombers around the island.

Taiwan’s Defence Ministry said on Wednesday afternoon two Chinese H-6K bombers had flown around the island, passing first through the Miyako Strait to Taiwan’s northeast and then back to base via the Bashi Channel between Taiwan and the Philippines.

The latest Chinese military movements come during a time of heightened tension between Beijing and the island and follows strong warnings by Chinese President Xi Jinping against Taiwan separatism last month.

China claims Taiwan as its own and considers it a breakaway province.

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