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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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Ex-traffic cop who claims to be reincarnation of Jesus arrested in Russia | World News

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A former traffic police officer who claims to be the reincarnation of Jesus has been arrested by Russian security forces.

Prominent mystic Sergei Torop and other leaders of the Church of the Last Testament sect were held in a remote part of Siberia on Tuesday.

They are accused of “damaging their followers’ health”.

Russia’s Investigative Committee said in a statement that the religious group had used psychological pressure to extract money from its followers and caused serious harm to their health.

Sergei Torop
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The cult leader is a former traffic policeman

Torop, known to his followers as Vissarion, set up the Church of the Last Testament in the Krasnoyarsk region in 1991, the year the Soviet Union broke up.

The operation to detain him, as well as group leaders Vadim Redkin and Vladimir Vedernikov, involved the police as well as members of the Federal Security Service.

The men could face up to 12 years in jail if found guilty, the RIA news agency reported.

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Luis Suarez faces investigation after ‘cheating’ on Italian citizenship test | World News

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Police in Italy have opened an investigation after Luis Suarez, one of the most controversial players in world football, was accused of cheating on his Italian citizenship test ahead of a move to the country.

The Uruguayan, who has previously faced bans for biting opponents and making racist remarks, took the exam in Perugia last week to facilitate a transfer from Barcelona to Juventus.

But prosecutors allege the former Liverpool striker, 33, knew what was going to be in the paper and that his mark had already been decided.

Luis Suarez leaves the University for Foreigners in Perugia after taking an Italian citizenship test
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Luis Suarez leaves the University for Foreigners in Perugia after taking an Italian citizenship test

The Perugia public prosecutor’s office said in a statement: “Some irregularities have emerged in the exam of certification of Italian, sat on September 17 by Uruguayan football player Luis Alberto Suarez Diaz, needed to obtain the Italian citizenship.

“From the investigation, it emerged that the topics in the exam had been agreed in advance with the applicant and that the relative mark had been attributed even before carrying out the exam, regardless of the fact that an elementary proficiency of the Italian language had been verified during remote classes carried out by lecturers of the University for Foreigners.

Suarez (left) was handed an eight-match ban over the incident
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Luis Suarez was banned for eight matches ban for racially abusing Manchester United’s Patrice Evra (R)

“Today, the Italian financial police are moving forward to capture the documents at the university offices, to verify the actions described beforehand and notify the information assurances for the crimes of revelation of professional secrecy, false representation committed by public officials in official documents and other acts.

Juventus have no places left in their squad for non-EU players, meaning Suarez had to obtain Italian citizenship to join the club.

And the proposed move appears to have fallen through, with the Italian champions now set to re-sign Alvaro Morata from Atletico Madrd.

Suarez, who has been told he can leave Barcelona, now seems set to replace Morata in the Spanish capital.

Luis Suarez battles for possession
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Luis Suarez is a Uruguayan international

Republicca reported a local official as saying on Monday: “He [Suarez} does not speak a word of Italian.

“He does not conjugate verbs, he only speaks using the infinitive. If journalists would ask him some questions, he’d be lost. He earns €10million a year, he needs to pass this exam.”

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Dark web crackdown on opioid traffickers triggers 179 arrests across world, including four in UK | Science & Tech News

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Police have arrested 179 people, including four in the UK, as part of a global crackdown on dark web opioid trafficking.

More than $6.5m (£5m) in cash was seized in a series of arrests and raids across the US and Europe, which came more than a year after the Wall Street Market darknet site was closed down.

At the time the site – which was operated by three German nationals – was one of the largest online illegal marketplaces, allowing users to purchase illicit items ranging from fraudulent documents to drugs and weapons.

It was accessible though the anonymity-preserving Tor browser, which is legitimately used around the world by people whose access to the internet is controlled by authoritarian governments, but which has also provided criminals with a mechanism to frustrate law enforcement.

The US Department of Justice nicknamed the crackdown Operation DisrupTor – a reference to the software – and said its investigators were continuing to work to identify individuals behind darknet accounts.

The three Wall Street Market administrators were arrested last year after conducting a so-called exit scam, suddenly disappearing with the cryptocurrency they held in escrow for the vendors and purchasers who traded on their site.

Alongside cash and virtual currency, the crackdown led to the seizure of more than 500kg of drugs – around 275kg of which was captured in the US – and 64 firearms.

The drugs included 17kg of fentanyl and 97kg of methamphetamine, along with heroin, cocaine, ecstasy and other opioids.

FBI officers in Ohio shut down what was described as “one of the most prolific online drug trafficking organisations” in the US, “which operated using the moniker ‘Pill Cosby’.”

Another narcotics vendor called “NeverPressedRX” was, the FBI said, “so intent on securing his online criminal enterprise that he conspired to use explosives to firebomb and destroy a competitor pharmacy”.

The arrests included 121 in the US, two in Canada, 42 in Germany, eight in the Netherlands, four in the UK, three in Australia and one in Sweden, according to the US Department of Justice.

“There will be no safe haven for drug dealing in cyberspace,” the DoJ said in its statement.

“Today’s announcement is very much a success story in international law enforcement cooperation, as crime on the darknet is truly a global problem that requires global partnership.

“However, the global nature of the threat also means that foreign countries who fail to act can easily become safe harbours for criminals who seek to pump lethal, addictive drugs into the US from abroad.”

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