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UK ambassador summoned to Russian foreign ministry

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Britain’s ambassador to Russia has been summoned to the country’s foreign ministry for talks, amid the ongoing diplomatic fallout after the Sailsbury spy poisoning.

Laurie Bristow did not give details about his talks with ministers as he left the government building on Friday.

However, the foreign ministry confirmed the UK had been given one month to cut its diplomatic mission to Russia to the same size as the Russian mission to Britain.

Mr Bristow told reporters: “I have just had a further discussion with the foreign ministry in Moscow about measures both sides have taken after events in Salisbury.

Laurie Bristow said he had further discussed the case with Russia
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Laurie Bristow said he had further discussed the spy poisoning case with Russia

“I am not going to go into details… but we will study what we have been told and make our decisions accordingly.”

He added: “It is important to remember why this crisis has arisen in the first place.

“It’s the use of a chemical weapon on the streets of the United Kingdom that has threatened the lives of a number of people in my country. We asked certain questions of the Russian state and have not received adequate answers.

German ambassador to Russia Ruediger Von Fritsch
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German ambassador to Russia Ruediger Von Fritsch

“What you have seen in recent days, the action taken by a couple of dozen countries, is the depth of concern about the damage this has caused to international security.”

It comes as Russia faces mass expulsions of its diplomatic staff around the world, with more than 150 sent back from 25 countries, and NATO.

Ambassadors from Germany, Italy, Poland and France were also summoned to the ministry on Friday for talks.

The French ambassador was also summoned
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The French ambassador was also summoned

The ministry said it was summoning the envoys of countries which had taken “unfriendly steps” since the attack on Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia.

Retaliatory measures were announced to ambassadors, with Italy told it would lose two diplomats, and Finland to lose one.

Other countries are expected to find out throughout the day how their own diplomatic missions will be affected.

The German ambassador said they were open for dialogue with Russia, but said the country “must respond” to allegations about the Skripal poisoning.

Russia has said it will respond by expelling the same number of diplomats from each country.

A Russian police officer stands guard outside the US Consulate in St Petersburg
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A Russian police officer stands guard outside the US Consulate in St Petersburg

The US Consulate in St Petersberg will also close and 60 diplomats have been expelled.

Ms Skripal is understood to be conscious and talking having been poisoned with novichok while visiting her father in Salisbury.

Police are treating the attack as attempted murder.

Mr Skripal, a former Russian spy, has been in a critical condition since 4 March.

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Woman from Mali gives birth to nine babies after expecting seven – and all are doing well | World News

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A woman from Mali has given birth to nine babies – two more than had been detected through scans.

Halima Cisse gave birth to the nonuplets at a hospital in Morocco after she was flown there in March for specialist care. All are said to be “doing well”.

The 25-year-old has become a mum to five girls and four boys, which were all delivered by caesarean section.

Mali’s health minister said it would be several weeks before they are expected home.

“The newborns and the mother are all doing well,” she confirmed.

She said she was being updated on the progress of the mother and the babies by the Malian doctor who had accompanied Halima to Morocco.

Halima had been expected to give birth to seven babies following ultrasound scans conducted in Morocco and Mali.

Her pregnancy has fascinated people in Mali, with her case attracting the attention of the West African nation’s leaders.

Nonuplets are extremely rare with medical complications in multiple births of this kind often meaning that some of the babies do not reach full term.

The first known set of nonuplets was born in 1971 in Sydney to 29-year-old Geraldine Brodrick, but none of the five boys and four girls survived.

Zurina Mat Saad gave birth to five boys and four girls in Malaysia in 1999, but none survived for more than a few hours.

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ABBA star Björn Ulvaeus: Waterloo took us from rat race – I wish that for other songwriters | Ents & Arts News

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ABBA star Björn Ulvaeus has said the success of Waterloo took the band from “a rat race” to being able to spend time honing their craft – a luxury many songwriters today simply cannot afford.

Released in 1974, the song was the band’s first big hit, reaching the top of the charts in the UK and winning the Eurovision Song Contest for Sweden.

ABBA, of course, went on to become global superstars and now sit among the best-selling music artists of all time, with hits including Dancing Queen, Mamma Mia and Fernando, to name just a few.

ABBA (L-R): Benny Andersson, Anni-Frid Lyngstad, Agnetha Faltskog and Bjorn Ulvaeus pose after winning the Swedish branch of the Eurovision Song Contest with Waterloo. Pic: AP
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ABBA (L-R): Benny Andersson, Anni-Frid Lyngstad, Agnetha Faltskog and Bjorn Ulvaeus pictured in 1974, their Eurovision-winning year. Pic: AP

Ulvaeus highlighted Waterloo’s success and what it meant for the band in an interview with Sky News, following the publication of a report he has worked on looking into how the song economy can be rebalanced.

The issue of royalties from streaming has been brought to the fore during the COVID-19 pandemic, as artists have been unable to make money from touring, but the report by MIDiA Research and Ulvaeus also addresses fairness for songwriters, too.

“Before we won the Eurovision Song Contest with Waterloo, (fellow ABBA star) Benny Andersson and I had been in a rat race,” he said. “We were running around producing other people’s records, writing songs for other people, even going on tours in different constellations just to pay the rent.

“But from Waterloo, when the royalties came pouring in, from that time we could afford to say no to everything else and just concentrate on the writing. That’s when you get better at it. And that’s what I wish for most songwriters today.”

Artists including Noel Gallagher, Robert Plant, Lily Allen and Rebecca Ferguson were among a host of stars who signed an open letter to Boris Johnson in April, calling on the prime minister to take action and update the law on streaming rights.

It followed a government inquiry into how revenue from streaming is distributed, and as many musicians are speaking out about how little they get paid through the current system.

Ulvaeus says the industry needs to change and is proposing a “fan-centric” streaming model, which would see users’ subscriptions going directly to the artists and people involved in the songs they are listening to.

ABBA's Bjorn Ulvaeus pictured in 2017. Pic: AP
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Ulvaeus says the streaming model needs to change. Pic: AP

The core of the music industry “for me has always been the song”, he said, but “somehow the songwriters have always been regarded as something on the periphery rather than the star of the whole thing”.

Ulvaeus continued: “I think that more and more people realise that the ecosystem is dysfunctional. It needs to be so that no party is unhappy. And as it is right now, more and more songwriters have to drive Ubers because of the imbalance.

“There are several factors in this. There is the way that royalties are calculated from streaming services, which is… every month the money goes into a big pot and then that is divided by the total number of clicks that month, which means that each click gets very, very little money.

“Most clicks go to the people who have been the mega players and very little money goes to the people underneath that absolute elite layer. And so what I propose is a kind of user-centric, fan-centric model in streaming, where your subscription goes exactly to the people that you play.”

Noel Gallagher
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Noel Gallagher is among dozens of stars who signed an open letter to Boris Johnson about streaming revenue

Would streaming platforms be happy to make a change?

“Not happy,” says Ulvaeus, but he thinks it is inevitable, and that users should be prepared to pay more for the music they are listening to.

“It will be something [streaming platforms] have to make, I think, because it used to be that the elite songwriters could always make a living out of songwriting, but there was a layer underneath as well.

“And they could make a living during the physical era, and they could manage to push themselves up to the upper level through having the time and being able to afford to spend time on becoming better songwriters. It’s a talent, but it’s also a craft. And you have to hone your craft.”

Being able to hone his craft is what led to ABBA’s incredible back catalogue.

Speaking about the songs standing the test of time, Ulvaeus said: “I’m constantly amazed at that and really, I don’t know how it happened. We just recorded the songs the best we could and why it has stayed the way it has, I don’t know. It’s kind of a miracle – and I don’t mind it being a miracle.”

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COVID cases in India accounted for nearly half of worldwide coronavirus infections last week | UK News

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India accounted for nearly half of the coronavirus cases reported worldwide last week and one in four of the deaths, the World Health Organisation has said.

The country was also responsible for nine in 10 of the COVID-19 cases and deaths in the WHO’s South East Asia region in the past week, according to the Geneva-based agency’s weekly report.

The World Health Organisation said on Wednesday: “India accounts for over 90% of both cases and deaths in the region, as well as 46% of global cases and 25% of global deaths reported in the past week.”

The figures come as two positive COVID cases among the Indian delegation in the UK for this week’s G7 meeting have been found.

Grieving family members light a funeral pyre in Jammu, India
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Grieving family members light a funeral pyre in Jammu, India
Exhausted workers gets some rest on the back of an ambulance in New Delhi
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Exhausted workers gets some rest on the back of an ambulance in New Delhi

Although it is not a G7 member, India was invited to attend the first in-person meeting of the group’s foreign ministers in more than two years in London this week.

India reported nearly 2.6 million new cases last week, a 20% increase on the previous week, and 23,231 deaths, the WHO has said.

There were 5.7 million new infections and more than 93,000 deaths confirmed worldwide, the organisation said in its report.

India, which accounts for almost 18% of the world’s population, became the second country to record 20 million infections on Tuesday.

The first was the United States.

Hospitals are struggling to cope with the virus in India
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Hospitals are struggling to cope with the virus in India
A woman breathes with the help of Oxygen in New Delhi
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A woman breathes with the help of Oxygen in New Delhi

Hospitals have been running out of beds and oxygen in India after a surge of the virus there, including of a highly infectious new variant first identified in the country.

Morgues and crematoriums have been overflowing.

Many people have died in ambulances and car parks waiting for hospital beds.

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India’s government has faced calls for a strict lockdown to slow a devastating surge in new cases.

A court in New Delhi will also decide whether to punish officials for failing to boost erratic supplies of oxygen for overstretched hospitals.

Rahul Gandhi, a leader of the opposition Congress party, said this week “a lockdown is now the only option because of a complete lack of strategy by the Indian government”.

There are also signs that India’s outbreak is spreading to its neighbours.

Nepal recorded a 137% increase in cases to 31,088 last week, while Sri Lanka’s COVID-19 outbreak was also growing, the WHO said.

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