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Salisbury Attack Suspect Identified as a GRU colonel by British Investigative Group

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Salisbury Attack

On March 4, 2018, a former Russian Spy became a victim of the Salisbury attack. The British Intelligence identified the two suspects — Ruslan Boshirov and Alexander Petrov — as members of the Russian military intelligence service (GRU), an accusation which was fiercely denied by Moscow.

However, on Wednesday, an investigative group, Bellingcat, in Britain said that it has identified one of the two suspects as a highly decorated colonel in the GRU.

The group informed that the suspect, whose passport name was Ruslan Boshirov, is in fact Colonel Anatoliy Chepiga. In 2014, he was awarded Russia’s highest medal– the Hero of Russia.

As a proof, the report didn’t had anything beyond a photograph from the 2003 passport file of Chepiga resembling Boshirov. No other evidence proving that the both are the same person, were provided.

Britain has charged two both the suspects, Boshirov and Petrov, against an attempt to kill the ex-Russian spy Sergei Skripal (66) and his daughter, Yulia Skripal, with the Soviet-designed nerve agent Novichok in the English city of Salisbury. It has said that the attack received approval “at a senior level of the Russian state.”

Denying all the accusations, the Russian President Vladimir Putin had stated the there was nothing criminal about both the suspects.

Maria Zakharova, spokeswoman for Russia’s Foreign Ministry, rejected the claim of the group. She said on Facebook that it is part of an “information campaign” against Russia.

The investigative group, Bellingcat relies on open sources and social media for conducting its investigations. The group has comprehensively focused on Russia, exposing its military activities in Syria, Ukraine and elsewhere.

Earlier this month, the two suspects of the Salisbury attack appeared on the state-funded RT channel, and stated that they had visited the city as tourists and had nothing to do with the Skripal poisoning. Both men denied the British claim that they were Russian military intelligence officers, and said that they work in the nutritional supplements business.

In its report, Bellingcat said that it had received tips from former Russian military officers and examined pictures of graduates of Russian military academies. As they found a man resembling Boshirov in a group shot, they searched through leaked official databases to find personal details.

Later, the group identified the man as Chepiga and eventually tracked down his passport file, dated 2003, which had a picture displaying a strong resemblance to Boshirov.

According to the group, Chepiga served several stints in Chechnya, where Russian forces were fighting Islamic rebels. Besides, his passport file recorded his service with a Russian military unit, which was part of the GRU’s Special Forces.

Regarding its finding on Chepiga’s Hero of Russia award, the group said that it signalled that he probably had received the medal for his actions in eastern Ukraine.

Although the investigative group has identified one of the two suspects of the Salisbury attack, the evidence doesn’t seem enough. Whether or not the allegations of the British government are true, still remains a question.

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Brexit Party Emerges Favourite among Scots, Polls Suggest

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Brexit Party

As of Monday, Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party claimed the second position in Scotland – leaving behind the conservatives and the Labour Party – in the European Elections.

The elections which will take place on Thursday will witness a historic nation-wide win of a party overshadowing the Conservatives and Labours.

This is the second time in a century that an organisation other than the Conservatives or the Labours will win. With the result of the polls, pressure is beginning to increase on Prime Minister Theresa May.

The results of the poll conducted by YouGov show that out of five only one Scottish voter is supporting Labour or Tories, standing at the fourth position collectively. On the other hand, one of the surveys placed Brexit Party as the second favourite choice across the UK in general voting elections.

Farage had earlier secured win in 2014 as well, but his then known party United Kingdom Independence Party couldn’t last for long. With the results of the latest polls, it has become evident that the probable decay of post-war two party systems might be leading to an uncertain political scenario.

The polls conducted by YouGov also indicate towards the fact that while Tories might lose their only MEP in Scotland, the Scottish Labour might lose one of the two seats in the European Parliament. The SNPs are leading the race with 38 percent of the vote share, followed by the Brexit Party at 20 percent, the poll reveals.

Similarly the Panelbase’s opinion polls on the upcoming elections show that the Farage’s party can claim eight MSP seats in the Scottish Parliament election. Considering the Opinium poll, Farage’s party is bound to garner 24 percent of the votes in the UK general election, two percent more than the votes, Tories are expected to obtain.

YouGov and Datapraxis conducted polls for the Best for Britain and Hope not Hate campaigns and 9,260 people from all over Britain took part in the polls. These polls place the Brexit Party on the first place as it received twice the votes received by the Liberal Democrats, who came second.

Previously Nigel Farage voiced his concerns over the Second Brexit Referendum and criticised the members of the Labour Party in favour of leaving the EU.

Louis Stedman-Bryce, one of the candidates of the Brexit Party in Scotland taking part in European Elections, praised the results of the polls.

He said, “This is despite Nicola Sturgeon’s insistence that ‘Scotland is not for Brexit’ on the Andrew Marr Show on Sunday, demonstrating just how out of touch she is with the electorate.”

“Like the rest of the UK, Scotland is fed up with career politicians trying to overturn democracy and push their own agenda. The First Minister should be very concerned because the Brexit Party will soon be turning its sights to Holyrood as well as Westminster,” he added.

The opinion polls reveal Brexit Party as the favourite of the masses in the European Elections, even though the elections are yet to take place. While the result of the elections might take up some time, it is almost certain that the people have chosen their leader already.

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Nigel Farage Left with Dripping Milkshake During EU Election Campaign

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Nigel Farage

In a bizarre incident on Monday, Britain’s Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage was given a milkshake bath while he was campaigning in the European Parliament election. The attack is the latest in the trend of decorating politicians with sticky beverages.

The fine gray suit of the politician was painted with white milkshake by an anti-Brexit protestor in Newcastle city centre. As Farage walked with his bodyguards and the reporters at about 1 p.m., the suspected 32-year-old man emptied the glass as he threw the shake at him from the front.

The protestor, Paul Crowther was detained in handcuffs at the scene. He stated that he hit Nigel Farage with the banana-and-salted caramel Five Guys shake to protest his “bile and racism” ideology.

Crowther said that he was looking forward to the drink, “but I think it went on a better purpose”. He has been reportedly charged with common assault and criminal damage.

After the attack, which is caught on video, the visibly shaken Brexit Party leader was heard reprimanding his security team for failing to protect him at the incident. He could be heard saying, “complete failure” and “how did you not stop that?”.

Nigel Farage associated the attack to those who are against Brexit and wanted to remain in the EU. He took to his official Twitter account and wrote, “Sadly some remainers have become radicalised, to the extent that normal campaigning is becoming impossible.”

Beverages have growingly become an unlikely political weapon in Britain. In recent weeks, other anti-EU candidates, including the far-right activist Tommy Robinson, have also been bombarded with milkshakes during the election campaigns.

The rising incidents also led to a restriction on selling milkshakes at food outlets. Last week, a McDonald’s in Edinburgh, Scotland brought the issue in light, stating that it had been told by police to not sell milkshakes during a Brexit Party rally.

The rising number in the milkshake-attack incidents are definitely a misconduct towards the politicians. However, they only reveal the rising aggression amongst the people over Brexit.

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Legalise Gay Marriage in Northern Ireland, Demands LGBTQ Community

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Gay Marriage

As the lunchtime on Saturday afternoon took its turn, Belfast in Northern Ireland saw a vibrant protest comprising 7000-8000 people, asking the government to legalise gay marriage. The protest took place in Writer’s Square near the St Anne’s Cathedral, the Belfast Anglican church, where the funeral of journalist Lyra Mckee took place.

The protest included prominent faces like Sara Canning, partner of McKee who died during a riot, John O’Doherty, director of Rainbow Project and Patrick Corrigan, director of Northern Ireland’s Amnesty International.

Preceding the rally, Canning disclosed that she asked Prime Minister Theresa May to legalise gay marriage in order to honour the cherished memory of Mckee.

Lyra Mckee, one of the distinguished journalists in Northern Ireland, was killed almost a month ago during a riot in Derry, by the supporters of the New IRA group. Many prominent political figures including Theresa May condemned her death.

Prior to assembling in front of the city hall, the rally marched through the Belfast city centre, asking to amend the marriage law and legalise gay marriage. Canning was among the ones leading the rally and carrying a placard with name “Lyra”, painted in rainbow colours. 

While addressing the crowd, Canning said that the reform would be a “win” for people of every community despite race, gender, caste or creed.

She said, “We pay our taxes, we are governed by the same laws, we live deeply and we love dearly – why should we not be afforded the same rights in marriage?”

 “Same-sex couples come from every single political, religious, cultural, and racial background. A vote passing on equal marriage would not be a win for any one side, it would be a win for all sides,” she added.

Similarly, O’Doherty while supporting the campaign, said “Like so many of you I stand today with my better half, the love of my life – angry and frustrated – that another year has passed without our love being recognised as equal under the law.”

For many years, the government has ignored the appeals to legalise marriage among the members of the LGBTQ community in the region of Northern Ireland. The Democratic Unionist Party and its 10 MPs have held the power in Tories since the election of 2017. With this said, the chances of legalising gay marriage might increase manifold, if a transfer of power occurs in Belfast.

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Foreign Office Issues Warning to people having UK-Iran Dual Citizenship

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dual citizenship

Foreign Office on Friday raised an alert to all the citizens having UK-Iran dual citizenship asking them not to visit Iran, due to the recent abrupt arrests made by Iran. The latest arrest and sentence of Aras Amiri apparently has triggered this warning.

The officials have also warned the British-Iranian citizens to travel with extreme caution, if in case the travel could not be avoided. They also advised that citizens holding citizenship of Iran with link to British Institutions are under scrutiny with extreme suspicion. The office also announced that Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) can only provide limited consular support to the UK citizens imprisoned.

Aras Amiri, one of the many holding UK-Iran dual citizenship of, worked for British Council in London. During her visit to Iran to meet her ill-grandmother, she was arrested in March 2018 and was convicted two months later on the charges of spying for UK. She received the sentence of 10 year imprisonment, on Monday.

The news of Iranian government arresting the UK citizens first came into light in 2016, when Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe was arrested. She is currently serving a five-year imprisonment on the charges of spying. However, Nazanin Ratcliffe has denied these charges.

Aras Amiri and Nazanin Ratcliffe arrests and sentences are among the few UK-Iran dual citizenship cases that saw light in the media by the government. Cases of the other detainees in Tehran holding dual citizenship have not been revealed upon the request of their families.

Foreign Secretary, Jeremy Hunt on the arrest of UK citizens holding dual citizenship said, “Dual nationals face an intolerable risk of mistreatment if they visit Iran. Despite the UK providing repeated opportunities to resolve this issue, the Iranian regime’s conduct has worsened.”

“Regrettably, I must also offer a message of caution to Iranian nationals resident in the UK – but who return to visit family and friends – especially where the Iranian government may perceive them to have personal links to UK institutions or the British government,” he added.

Richard Ratcliffe, husband of Nazanin Ratcliffe said that the cases of UK-Iran dual citizenship people, “should not be seen simply as random and unconnected, but part of a new wave of hostage diplomacy”.

He said, “This erosion of previous norms against state-sponsored hostage taking creates more than a protection gap for individual citizens. It risks allowing a new middle ages of international law.”

“It is important to increase the cost – for Iran and others – of holding innocent people as leverage,” he added.

The reasons of the arrest by Iran of the UK citizens might be because the Iranian Government does not accept Dual citizenship. However, a meeting among top officials on, Iran detaining the UK citizens might help to determine the course of action that is needed to bring them back. Yet, till the time the issue is not resolved, it might be in best interest of everyone to avoid visiting Iran.

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Assuming the State of Theresa May, Downing Street Might See New Leader Soon

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Downing Street

With the Brexit chaos still going on and Theresa May struggling to get her withdrawal deal through the Parliament, the Prime Minister declared on Thursday that she might soon leave the Downing Street as she plans to step down from her post.

According to the sources, the UK might see a new leader soon after the voting on the next Brexit deal. The news came into light, following the summit between May and senior Tory MPs, who have been asking for May’s departure date.

May had earlier promised to leave the Downing Street, in case her withdrawal deal is approved by the MP’s. However, now May has consented to leave the office despite the result of her Brexit deal in the Parliament. 

According to the chairman of influential conservative party, May will soon declare the timetable for her departure during the early days of June, right after she has presented her fourth Brexit deal.

Chairman of the 1922 committee Graham Brady confirmed the reports about May’s departure. He recounted the report to be a “very frank exchange”.

Although as per the party rules, May cannot be challenged removed from the post of the Prime Minister until December, but the MPs have warned to change the party policies. Earlier, 70 conservative MPs signed a petition to discuss May’s control over the party. The activists from her Conservative Party are also arranging a meeting on June 15 to debate over the no confidence motion in the Prime Minister.

May’s resignation might be one of the ways to answer for two-time delay in Brexit with the MPs and government no closer to a smoother Brexit even after three years of Britons voting to leave the EU.

As Downing Street will soon be looking for its new leader, Former foreign secretary Boris Johnson, Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, Home Secretary Sajid Javid, and House of Commons leader Andrea Leadsom have shown interest in the premiership.

It is expected that before the Parliament announces the summer break, first phase of the elections will be completed by the end of July.

Brady after the meeting with May said, “We have agreed that she and I will meet following the second reading of the Bill to agree a timetable for the election of a new leader of the Conservative and Unionist Party.”

Amid the continuous disagreement over the withdrawal deal and appalling results in the recent local elections by the Conservative Party, the demands for May’s departure from the Downing Street have become stronger than before. While many still hope that May’s withdrawal deal might get approved, it is clear that she would have to resign if the fourth Brexit deal fails too.

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