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Cobra committee to discuss spy poisoning mystery

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The Home Secretary will chair an emergency meeting of the Government’s Cobra committee as the Russian spy poisoning mystery threatens to become a security and diplomatic crisis.

Amber Rudd is coming under pressure from senior MPs to launch an inquiry into claims that 14 suspicious deaths in recent years are potentially connected to Russian intelligence services.

And as Sergei Skripal and his daughter fight for life in hospital in Salisbury, Theresa May is likely to be quizzed by MPs at Prime Minister’s Questions about the suspected poisoning and other deaths.

The Cobra meeting, which will be attended by senior Cabinet ministers, police and intelligence chiefs, comes less than 24 hours after a hastily-arranged meeting of the National Security Council in Downing Street.

The crisis has also plunged Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson into a major diplomatic row with Vladimir Putin after he told MPs Russia was “malign” and suggested England could boycott this summer’s World Cup.


Specialist counter-terrorism officers are helping police in Salisbury investigate an incident that has left a Russian man who was exchanged in a high-profile “spy swap” and a woman critically ill.

Police are continuing to try to establish what the substance was that Sergei Skripal, 66, and a woman in her 30s were exposed to in the Wiltshire city at the weekend.



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Russian spy ‘caught on CCTV’ in Salisbury

The MP for Salisbury, John Glen, attempted to reassure alarmed constituents in the normally tranquil cathedral city by tweeting: “My thoughts and prayers this evening are with my constituent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia.

“We still do not know all the facts but we do know that a terrible human tragedy took place on the streets of Salisbury on Sunday.

“The Government is now doing all it can to find out exactly what happened.

“The National Security Council met today (Tuesday) and the Home Secretary is chairing the Cobra committee tomorrow morning.

“No stone will be left unturned in the investigation and bringing those responsible to justice.”

:: Who is Russian double agent Sergei Skripal?

The call on the Home Secretary to order a probe into earlier suspicious Russian-linked deaths comes from senior Labour MP Yvette Cooper, who chairs the Home Affairs Select Committee.

Composite of Sergei Skripal, 66, and his daughter Julia who are in a critical condition
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Sergei Skripal, 66, and his daughter Julia are in a critical condition

In a letter headed “Review of deaths with allegations of state responsibility”, Ms Cooper steps up pressure on the Government for an inquiry following exchanges with the Foreign Secretary in the Commons earlier.

“I asked the Foreign Secretary to discuss with you a review by the National Crime Agency (NCA), or another appropriate entity, into 14 deaths that have not been treated as suspicious by the UK police, but have – reportedly – been identified by United States intelligence sources as potentially connected to the Russian state,” Ms Cooper writes.

“The Foreign Secretary agreed to discuss this with you, and I am writing to request a response on these matters as soon as possible.”

:: Burgers and tea: How poison is hitman’s weapon of choice

In her letter, Ms Cooper quotes a report claiming US intelligence has informed the British Government that a Russian whistleblower – Alexander Perepilichnyy, who died in Surrey in 2012 – was likely killed under orders by the Russian state.

Sergei Skripal was a colonel in Russian military inteligence
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Sergei Skripal was a colonel in Russian military intelligence

She also suggests that a further 13 people, including an associate of Alexander Litvinenko, Boris Berezovsky, were also likely killed on British soil.

But she complains: “Yet the UK authorities have ruled out suspicious circumstances in these cases, often concluding that suicide or natural causes was the explanation.”

:: Boris Johnson called pathetic over 2018 Russia World Cup threat

:: Is spy ‘poisoning’ Russia vendetta or rogue mission?

Ms Cooper points out that the Foreign Secretary noted the Perepilichnyy case in his answer to her question in the Commons, calling it one of a number of “deeply troubling cases”.

And she adds: “You will be aware of reports of considerable concerning evidence about many of the 14 cases that raises serious doubts about the decisions made in each case to treat them either as suicides, natural causes or accidents.

“This reported evidence raises questions over the robustness of the police investigations.

“Surely a review of all these cases and the decisions made on them, in light of this further reported evidence, carried out by the NCA, would be a prudent course of action to ensure that – as the Foreign Secretary said today – no attempt on an innocent life on British soil should go un-investigated or unpunished.”

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Prince Harry and Meghan meet top UN official amid world leaders’ gathering in New York | World News

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Prince Harry and Meghan have met with a top UN official during the world body’s biggest annual gathering.

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex visited the UN headquarters in New York to speak with deputy secretary-general Amina Mohammed.

Ms Mohammed said they discussed “how to engage on issues we care about deeply”, such as vaccine equity, climate action, the economic empowerment of women, youth engagement and mental wellbeing.

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Harry and Meghan pay respects at 9/11 memorial

“It was a lovely meeting,” Meghan said afterwards.

The UN said Ms Mohammed welcomed the couple’s work to address the organisation’s 17 sustainable development goals, which were created in 2015 and include objectives like ending hunger and poverty, achieving gender equality and combating climate change.

The trio met ahead of their scheduled appearances at the Global Citizen concert in Central Park later on Saturday.

The star-studded, 24-hour event aims to encourage climate action and urge wealthier countries to share one billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines with other nations.

Billie Eilish and Ed Sheeran are among the musicians expected to headline the festival, which features performances in cities including New York, London and Sydney.

Tens of thousands of people are set to attend, with millions likely to tune in to the broadcast.

Prince Harry and Meghan are due to speak at the event in New York as part of their first major public trip since quitting as senior royals.

Earlier this week they visited the city’s memorial for the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center, with New York City mayor Bill de Blasio and the state’s governor, Kathy Hochul, joining them.

United Nations, New York, USA, September 23, 2021 - Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed briefs journalists on the UN Food Systems Summit.Today at the UN Headquarters in New York City. Photo by: Luiz Rampelotto/EuropaNewswire/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images
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UN deputy secretary-general Amina Mohammed said they discussed ‘how to engage on issues we care about deeply’. Pic: AP

The UN is currently hosting the annual general assembly of world leaders, who have been discussing efforts to fight climate change and COVID-19.

Meghan has been involved with the UN women’s agency for several years, acting as “advocate for political participation and leadership”.

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Were Prince Harry and Meghan cut off financially?

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex were among those chosen as Time magazine’s 100 most influential people last week.

Last year, the couple stepped down from royal duties, moving to California and launching their Archewell Foundation.

They have previously supported other Global Citizen initiatives, acting as campaign chairs for a Vax Live event in May which encouraged donations to Covax, an initiative working to provide vaccines for low and middle-income countries.

In a speech he made on stage, Prince Harry called for coronavirus jabs to be “distributed to everyone everywhere”.

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German election: Voters want fresh leadership even if many seem unconvinced by the options | Politics News

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They’re already putting Angela Merkel out to pasture at the Tussauds waxworks in Berlin, decking her out in clothes to go hiking, which the chancellor says she wants to do more of when she’s retired.

Mrs Merkel has been chancellor for 16 years.

Madam Tussaud’s studio assistant Karen Fries says it will be strange when she is gone.

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Germany election: What’s at stake?

“It’s going to be weird, yes, because it’s now 16 years and we are not used to getting along without her, but we’ll see.”

The same sentiments are around the corner at the Brandenburg Gate.

Another race was under way ahead of the election: rollerbladers gathering to speed around the route of the marathon that is run this weekend.

“Both of us, we are 23,” two young bladers told us. “We just know Angela Merkel. So I think an era comes to an end.”

Another man told us none of the candidates can replace her: “No, they are too weak.”

Is this just another country’s election or one we should all be interested in?

Madam Tussaud's studio assistant Karen Fries says it will be strange when she is gone
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Madam Tussaud’s studio assistant Karen Fries says it will be strange when Angela Merkel is gone

Angela Merkel was called the leader of the free world, a moniker she herself thought was absurd. But it gives a sense of the void she may leave in these uncertain times.

Mrs Merkel has been credited with steering Germany through numerous crises but critics say she did not do enough to see them coming or warn Germans about others on their way.

Matthew Karnitschnig, Politico’s chief Europe correspondent, says: “The problem is that Merkel has shielded the population for a very long time from the realities of what’s going on in the world.”

angela merkel wax statue in madame tussauds
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A wax figure of Angela Merkel is going on display in Germany

Mrs Merkel was more of an administrator than a leader, he says, and has left one key question unanswered for her successors to address.

The way they do could have ramifications far beyond Germany.

“What’s at stake, really, is what role Germany is going to play in the world,” he says.

“Does Germany want to be a real player on the world stage, or does it want to act more like a giant Switzerland in the middle of Europe, trying to be all things to all people?”

Matthew Karnitschnig, Politico's chief Europe correspondent
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Matthew Karnitschnig, Politico’s chief Europe correspondent, says Mrs Merkel was more of an administrator than a leader

Germany after Mrs Merkel will be under pressure from America to take on Russia more and be a more useful partner within the EU.

For Europe’s largest country and richest economy, it has not punched at its weight in the minds of many in Washington and elsewhere.

Others agree that Mrs Merkel cossetted Germans and protected them from global realities too much.

Green MEP Sergei Lagodinski, who helped write his party’s foreign policy, told Sky News: “I do hope very much that after this very comfortable sleep that we had with a very comforting leader who actually drove us and directed us quite good through a couple of crises, we need now to wake up not only to survive crisis and get back to the business as usual, but try to reimagine both Germany and Europe in this new age.”

Green MEP Sergei Lagodinski,
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Green MEP Sergei Lagodinski says Germany needs to be reimagined

The world and Germany are very different now than 16 years ago when Merkel first came to power.

Climate change, populism and artificial intelligence are all challenges that need proactive leadership, arguably not a strength of Mrs Merkel’s.

“I think it’s tremendously important, not just for Germany but for Europe,” Mr Lagodinski says.

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German voters take to the polls

“We have a situation where we have a change in terms of who’s going to lead Germany but also we have a totally changed global situation.”

There is the sense of an era coming to an end on the eve of this important election.

In the dusky light of a warm September evening, the voters we spoke to seemed relaxed about the future but conflicted too.

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Germany’s election: The end of Merkel

They want change but also continuity.

There is a yearning for stability with such a familiar figure bowing out and in such unpredictable times. But 16 years is a long long time to have one leader, we have been told repeatedly.

Germany and the world have new challenges to take on and new demons to fight, and voters want fresh leadership even if many seem unconvinced by the line-up they have to choose from.

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Dean Berta Vinales: Fifteen-year-old World Superbike star dies after crash during race in Spain | World News

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Fifteen-year-old motorcyclist Dean Berta Vinales has died following a crash at a World Superbike Championship race in Jerez, Spain.

After 11 laps in the Supersport 300 support race, the Spanish athlete crashed at the second turn, along with three other riders.

He suffered severe head and spinal injuries and was treated by medical crews who arrived on the scene, World Superbike said.

They attended to him on the track, in an ambulance and at the circuit medical centre.

“Despite the best efforts of the circuit medical staff, the Medical Centre has announced that Berta Vinales has sadly succumbed to his injuries,” World Superbike said.

The race was red-flagged by the director and cancelled, along with the rest of Saturday’s action.

Vinales was MotoGP rider Maverick Vinales’s cousin and he rode for his uncle’s Vinales Racing Team.

In a statement on social media, Vinales Racing Team said it was “devastated”.

MotoGP said on Twitter: “We’re devastated by the tragic loss of @DeanBerta21 following a crash in #WorldSSP300 Race 1 today.

“Sending all our love and strength to Maverick Vinales and Dean’s entire family, his team and loved ones.”

Six-time MotoGP champion Marc Marquez wrote: “Rest in peace Dean. All my support to family and friends.”

World Superbike said Vinales was “enjoying a recent run of good form” in his rookie season in the FIM Supersport 300 World Championship, coming in fourth in Race 2 at the Magny-Cours circuit and sixth in Race 2 at the Barcelona-Catalunya track.

He had set the fastest lap in Race 1 and the organisation said he was “showing great potential”.

The tragedy is the latest in a series of crashes that have claimed the lives of young riders.

Fourteen-year-old Hugo Millan died after crashing at a race in Alcaniz, Spain in July, while Swiss Moto3 rider Jason Dupasquier, 19, died in May from injuries he sustained in a three-bike crash during a qualifying session at the Mugello circuit in Italy.



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