Britain is to kick out 23 Russian diplomats, the biggest such expulsion since the Cold War, over a chemical attack on a former Russian double agent in England that Prime Minister Theresa May has blamed on Moscow.
Ms May pointed the finger firmly at Russian President Vladimir Putin overnight as she outlined retaliatory measures in Parliament.
Russia denies any involvement in the attack on ex-spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia, who have been in a critical condition in hospital since they were found unconscious on March 4 on a bench in the southern English city of Salisbury.
Ms May announced the potential freezing of Russian state assets that pose a security threat, new laws to counter hostile state activity and said British ministers and royals would not attend the football World Cup in Russia later this year.
She had given Moscow until midnight on Tuesday to explain how the Soviet-made Novichok nerve agent came to be deployed on the streets of Salisbury, saying either the Russian state was responsible or had lost control of a stock of the substance.
“Their response demonstrated complete disdain for the gravity of these events,” Ms May said in her statement to Parliament.
“They have treated the use of a military-grade nerve agent in Europe with sarcasm, contempt and defiance.”
The only possible conclusion was that the Russian state was behind the attempted murder of the Skripals and the harm that befell Nick Bailey, a police officer who is in a serious condition after being exposed to the nerve agent, Ms May said.
The Russian Foreign Ministry said Moscow would swiftly retaliate against the British measures which had been undertaken for “short-sighted political ends”.
Waves of up to eight metres have been recorded off southern Queensland beaches overnight as the effects of ex-Tropical Cyclone Linda continue to be felt, with the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) warning of abnormally high tides and dangerous surf.
The BOM said low-lying areas and beachfront properties on the Gold and Sunshine Coasts could experience some inundation.
Forecaster Sam Campbell said dangerous surf conditions and possible beach erosion are expected along the east coast south of Fraser Island to the Sunshine Coast during the day, easing late this afternoon.
“We’ve seen some waves up to eight metres at the Mooloolah buoy overnight, seven metres around the Brisbane buoy, up to five metres around the Gold Coast buoy, but pretty far off shore though so it’s not really affecting the coast directly aside from those big waves,” Mr Campbell said.
“We’re just seeing a few showers coming in, and the odd gust getting up to 80 kilometres per hour at Double Island Point.”
At 5:00am, the system was still in the Coral Sea about 350 kilometres northeast of Fraser Island, moving slowly southwards.
In an unprecedented national walkout, students left their classrooms across the US to protest against gun violence.
A large-scale rally for gun control will be held in Washington DC on March 24. Another walkout will be held to mark the 19th anniversary of the Columbine High School massacre on April 20.
Students are calling for tighter background checks and bans on assault rifles along with higher age limits for gun purchases.
“They are inspired, they are tough but they are also scared to go to school. They’re determined to be heard”, wrote ABC North American correspondent Zoe Daniel.
Dubbed the “Mass Shooting Generation”, since last month’s massacre of 17 students and teachers at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida, the lost lives of many more also loomed large.
“I think all these sentiments were there before Parkland, but I think the fact that Parkland mirrored the high school that I attend … it really could be one of us in the future,” Amarins Laanstra-Corn, a student at Blair Montgomery High School in Maryland., was quoted on the ABC as saying.
“It really feels like there needs to be something done about this so it doesn’t happen again and I feel like the fact that the movement is led by students — led by youth — and we can now vote, we can now have a voice.”
“We should be able to go to school without being afraid of someone coming up and hurting students and teachers,” Claudia Riviera said.
“They should do background checks, make sure no-one is mentally ill or unstable and, honestly, we need more gun control because I want to be able to go to school without being afraid of what’s going to happen.
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