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UK considering Russian consular access to Yulia Skripal as Russia expels more UK diplomats

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The UK government is considering allowing Russian officials to visit Yulia Skripal, who is recovering in hospital along with her father Sergei after a nerve agent attack.

Ms Skripal is understood to be conscious and talking after she was poisoned with novichok while visiting her father in Salisbury.

It comes as Russia accuses Britain of “blatant provocation” after an Aeroflot plane was searched when it landed at Heathrow.

And Moscow has told the UK to take home more than 50 of its diplomats in the ongoing row over the nerve agent attack.

Police are treating the poisoning of Yulia and Sergei Skripal as attempted murder. The attack has provoked a worldwide diplomatic spat and Western nations have joined the UK in expelling Russian officials in response.

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

The Russian Embassy in London tweeted that it insists “on the right to see” Ms Skripal, who is a Russian citizen.

A UK Foreign Office spokeswoman has since said: “We are considering requests for consular access in line with our obligations under international and domestic law, including the rights and wishes of Yulia Skripal.”

The Kremlin has denied suggestions is poisoned the former spy
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Over 50 more UK diplomats are expected to be sent home from Moscow

Meanwhile, Russia has told the UK it must send home “just over 50” more of its diplomats in the ongoing tit-for-tat row.

Russia has already retaliated against Britain for the UK’s expulsion of Russian “intelligence agents” by ejecting 23 British diplomats over the attack on the Skripals.

On Friday, the UK’s ambassador to Moscow was told London had one month to cut its diplomatic contingent in Russia to the same size as the Russian mission in Britain.

Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said that meant Britain would have to cut “a little over 50” additional diplomats in Russia.

“We asked for parity. The Brits have 50 diplomats more than the Russians,” she said.

Aeroflot plane
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An Aeroflot plane has ‘been searched’

And in a statement about the Aeroflot plane search, the Russian Embassy in the UK said: “Today, we have witnessed another blatant provocation by the British authorities.

“Border Force and Customs officers have searched the aircraft that was conducting the Aeroflot flights 2582 / 2583, Moscow – London – Moscow.

“This kind of event is extraordinary.”

The Kremlin has also alleged British officials had tried to search the plane in the absence of the crew and have threatened to board British planes in retaliation.

The Russian embassy added: “Of course, we will carefully analyse what has happened. At this moment, we have no other explanation but that the incident at Heathrow is in one way or another connected with the hostile policy that the UK government is conducting with regard to Russia.”

The Russian ministry of transport later said: “If there is no explanation, the Russian side will deem the actions towards our plane as illegal and also reserve the right to take similar action against British airlines.”

British security minister Ben Wallace said: “It is routine for Border Force to search aircraft to protect the UK from organised crime and from those who attempt to bring in harmful substances like drugs or firearms into the country.

“Once those checks were carried out the plane was allowed to carry on with its onward journey.”

Tonight marks the deadline for 60 US embassy staff to leave Russia as part of Moscow’s policy of expelling foreign diplomats in a tit-for-tat response to countries across the world sending home Russian diplomats in solidarity with Britain.

In total, 171 people are expected to leave the country, with two Russian planes laid on, one of which will make a brief stopover in New York to collect 14 families.

More than 150 Russian diplomats are being kicked out 25 countries and the NATO mission.

Ambassadors from a number of other nations, including Germany, Italy, Poland and France, have also been summoned by Moscow’s foreign ministry.



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Afghanistan: Youngsters protest online against order telling girls not to go to school | World News

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Afghan girls and boys have joined a social media protest against a decision by the Taliban to prevent young females going to school.

Putting their own safety at risk, many have created makeshift banners to make their points, opposing an edict by the Taliban government that female middle and high school students should not return to school for the time being, while boys of the same age can resume their studies this weekend.

It comes as the interim mayor of Kabul is telling female city authority employees to stay home, with only those whose jobs cannot be done by men allowed to work.

Banner reads: "What is our crime that we are prevented from education?"
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Banner reads: ‘What is our crime that we are prevented from education?’

The moves are further evidence the Taliban, which overran Kabul last month, is enforcing its harsh interpretation of Islam despite initial promises that it would be tolerant and inclusive.

Among the slogans on the banners displayed by the youngsters are statements like: “What is our crime that we are prevented from education?” and “I won’t go to school without my sister. I support my sister. We are equal.”

Sky News has blurred the faces of some of those protesting, as there are fears they could be at risk in a country that appears to be clamping down on the right of expression.

Banner reads: "You took our holy land, so don't take our education from us"
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Banner reads: ‘You took our holy land, so don’t take our education from us’

On Sunday, just over a dozen women staged a protest outside the new ministry, holding up placards calling for the right of women to participate in public life.

The protest lasted for about 10 minutes before a short verbal confrontation occurred with a man and the women got into cars and left, as members of the Taliban watched from nearby cars.

Kabul’s new interim mayor, Hamdullah Namony, told his first news conference that, pending a further decision, most of the 1,000 or so female city authority employees would be required to stay home.

He said exceptions would only be made for women who could not be replaced by men, including some in the design and engineering departments and the attendants of public toilets for women.

The Taliban flags are seen on a street in Kabul, Afghanistan
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The mayor of Kabul has told many female employees of the city authorities to stay home

Mr Namony added: “There are some areas that men can’t do it, we have to ask our female staff to fulfil their duties, there is no alternative for it.”

During its previous rule between the mid 1990s and 2001, the Taliban had forbidden girls and women from schools, jobs and public life.

In recent days, Taliban officials told female university students that classes would take place in gender-segregated settings, and they must abide by a strict Islamic dress code.

Banner reads: "We won't go to schools, until our sisters are allowed to go to school"
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Banner reads: ‘We won’t go to schools, until our sisters are allowed to go to school’

Under the previous US-backed administration, before it was deposed by the Taliban in August, men and women had sat alongside each other in universities, for the most part.

On Friday, the Taliban shut down the ministry for women’s affairs, replacing it with a government department responsible for the “propagation of virtue and the prevention of vice”, with the job of enforcing Islamic law.

Amid deteriorating conditions for ordinary Afghans, many of whom previously relied on international aid, witnesses said an explosion targeted a Taliban vehicle in the provincial city of Jalalabad, the second such deadly blast in as many days in an area where Islamic State militants are said to dominate.

Banner reads: "I don’t go to school without my sister. I support my sister. #We are equal"
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Banner reads: ‘I don’t go to school without my sister. I support my sister. #We are equal’

The Taliban and IS extremists are enemies and battled each other before the Taliban took control of Afghanistan last month.

Initial reports said five people were killed, with a child among the two civilians said to have died. The Taliban were not immediately available for comment.

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Boris Johnson tells world leaders he is growing ‘increasingly frustrated’ at their efforts to tackle climate change | Politics News

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Boris Johnson has criticised other world leaders over their efforts to tackle climate change, telling them he is growing “increasingly frustrated” that their commitments are “nowhere near enough”.

Speaking during a meeting at the United Nations in New York, the prime minister said the gap between what has been promised by industrialised nations and what they have so far delivered remains “vast”.

Co-hosting a discussion on the issue at the UN General Assembly, Mr Johnson urged fellow leaders to renew their efforts to meet a key financing pledge to help developing nations.

The PM wants to get countries to commit to giving $100bn (£73bn) a year in support to developing nations to cut their carbon emissions and shield themselves against climate change.

But he earlier told reporters there was only a “six out of 10” chance of this target being met before the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow in November – which he then said will be “a turning point for the world” and “the moment when we have to grow up and take our responsibilities”.

He told Sky News’ political editor Beth Rigby: “We have been here before, we have all heard lots of positive noises, let’s see where we get to.

“We are not counting our chickens.”

However, Joe Biden’s climate envoy sounded upbeat when questioned by Sky News.

“I think we’re going to get it done by COP and the US will do its part,” John Kerry said.

Asked if the US president will announce more money this week, he replied: “I’m not hoping… I’m telling you to stay tuned into the president’s speech and we’ll see where we are.”

Chairing the climate discussion on Monday, Mr Johnson noted that “everyone nods and we all agree that something must be done”.

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Kerry ‘confident’ of $100bn climate target

“Yet I confess I’m increasingly frustrated that the ‘something’ to which many of you have committed is nowhere near enough,” he continued.

“It is the biggest economies in the world that are causing the problem, while the smallest suffer the worst consequences.

“And while progress is being made all over the world, the gulf between what has been promised, what is actually being delivered, and what needs to happen… it remains vast.

“Too many major economies – some represented here today, some absent – are lagging too far behind.”

And the PM warned countries there would be consequences if the financing target is not met, saying: “If you say that the lives of their children are not worth the hassle of reducing domestic coal consumption, will they vote with you in fora such as this?

“Will they work with you, borrow from you, stand with you if you tell the world that you don’t care whether their land and their people slip below the waves?

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“To be merely a bystander is to be complicit in their fate – yet that is exactly what you will be if you fail to act this year.”

Ahead of the UN meeting, Downing Street said developed countries had “collectively failed” to meet the target.

Figures released last week by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development showed that $79.6bn was mobilised in 2019, more than $20bn off the target.

Watch the Daily Climate Show at 6.30pm Monday to Friday on Sky News, the Sky News website and app, on YouTube and Twitter.

The show investigates how global warming is changing our landscape and highlights solutions to the crisis.

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Serbians block roads in Kosovo in protest over license plate restrictions | World News

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Protesters have blocked roads in northern Kosovo after authorities stopped cars with Serbian plates from entering the country.

Police in Jarinje, Kosovo are forcing drivers from Serbia to remove or hide license plates and use temporary registration details that are valid for 60 days and cost €5 (£4.30).

Serbia, which lost control of Kosovo in 1999, does not recognise Kosovo and has stopped cars with Kosovo license plates from entering the country.

Kosovo's special force deployed armoured vehicles as hundreds blocked the roads in Jarinje, Kosovo
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Kosovo’s special force deployed armoured vehicles as hundreds blocked the roads in Jarinje, Kosovo

Almost 50,000 Serbs who live in the north of Kosovo and share a border with Serbia, refuse to recognise Pristina’s authorities and as restrictions came into force on Monday, cars and trucks blocked roads in protest.

Police in Kosovo deployed riot gear and armoured vehicles as the blockades built up and Kosovo’s Prime Minister, Albin Kurti, said the move was not taken to harm drivers but was a retaliation measure against Belgrade.

“Today there is nothing illegal or discriminatory,” Mr Kurti said in parliament.

“Just as yesterday, today and tomorrow, Serb citizens will move freely and safely.”

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said the situation is very “serious and difficult”.

“When you are dealing with people who are not responsible, it is difficult to find a solution,” Mr Vucic said.

Drivers waved a Serbian flag as they protested against the government ban on entry of vehicles with Serbian license plates
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Drivers waved a Serbian flag as they protested against the government ban on entry of vehicles with Serbian license plates

The two countries began talks in 2013, mediated by the European Union, to resolve the issues, but little progress has been made.

Kosovo is recognised by around 110 countries, including the United States, Britain and most western countries, but Russia, Serbia’s traditional ally, does not recognise it.

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