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RUSSIA

Jumbo win for Bardot’s death row elephants

France's Council of State on Wednesday granted a reprieve for two elephants who had been ordered to be put down because of a suspected tuberculosis infection, to the delight of Brigitte Bardot and other animal rights campaigners.

Jumbo win for Bardot's death row elephants
Baby and Nepal at the Tête d'Or zoo in Lyon. Photo: Phillipe Desmazes/AFP

Bardot, who had threatened to quit France for Russia if Baby, 42, and Nepal, 43, were put to sleep, called for the pair of pachyderms to be put into the care of her animal welfare foundation.

"They are old ladies," Bardot said in a statement welcoming the ruling. "Now we have to find them a suitable place, take care of them if necessary and leave them in peace."

Baby and Nepal have faced an execution order since last year, when municipal officials in Lyon decided they had almost certainly been infected with TB and warned they could be a threat to the health of other animals and visitors to the Tete d'Or zoo in the city.

After a nationwide outcry and a string of temporary reprieves, the Council of State on Wednesday finally lifted the threat of execution by ruling that it was unclear that having the animals put down was the only way to prevent the risk of further infection.

In light of that, the execution order could be illegal and was likely disproportionate to the actual health risk, the court, which rules on disputes arising from administrative decisions, concluded.

Baby and Nepal's fate has been clouded since August 2012, when another elephant, Java, died at the age of 67 and a post mortem revealed she had been suffering from TB.

The order for the two younger elephants to be put down followed in December but animal rights activists had maintained there was no certainty that they were definitely infected.

"It is a great relief," Bardot said. "We do not have the right to have animals put down as a precaution. It is disgusting. Baby and Nepal have been isolated for more than two years, they don't represent a threat to anyone."

Bardot's threat to move to Russia had come in the wake of her actor friend Gerard Depardieu's decision to accept a Russian passport after being criticized by the Socialist government for taking up residence in neighbouring Belgium for tax reasons.

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RUSSIA

Senior French officer held on suspicion of spying for Russia

A senior French military officer stationed at a NATO base has been indicted and jailed on suspicion of spying for Russia, local media and sources said on Sunday.

Senior French officer held on suspicion of spying for Russia
A change of command ceremony at the base of NATO’s Alliance Ground Surveillance Force in Sigonella, Italy. It is not known at which Italian Nato base the officer was stationed. Photo: Falk Plankenhorn
The French army officer was stationed abroad, a judicial source said confirming details from Europe 1 radio. According to the report, the soldier was stationed on a NATO base in Italy and is suspected of espionage on behalf of Russia.
   
The French government confirmed it was investigating a senior military officer over a “security breach”.
   
“What I can confirm is that a senior officer is facing legal proceedings for a security breach,” Defence Minister Florence Parly told Europe 1 radio, CNews and Les Echos newspaper. She gave no further details.
   
The judicial source said the officer had been indicted and jailed on charges involving “intelligence with a foreign power that undermines the fundamental interests of the nation”.
   
He is being prosecuted for “delivering information to a foreign power”, “collecting information harming the fundamental interests of the nation with a view to delivering them to a foreign power” and “compromising the secrecy of national defence”, the source said.
 
   
Europe 1 said the officer was a lieutenant-colonel stationed with NATO in Italy and had been placed under investigation on suspicion of spying for Russia.
   
He speaks Russian and was seen in Italy with a man identified as an agent of the GRU, the Russian military intelligence
service, the report said. It said he is suspected of having supplied sensitive documents to Russian intelligence.
   
The man was arrested by DGSI intelligence service as he was about to leave for Italy at the end of his holidays in France, and is being held at a prison in Paris, Europe 1 said.
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