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UKRAINE

France expels 35 Russian diplomats

France has announced it will expel 35 Russian diplomats as part of a joint European action after Moscow's invasion of Ukraine.

France expels 35 Russian diplomats
France's move comes after the discovery of mass graves in the Ukrainian town of Bucha, recently occupied by the Russian army. Photo by ARIS MESSINIS / AFP

“France decided this evening to expel a number of Russian personnel with diplomatic status stationed in France whose activities are against our security interests,” the foreign ministry said in a statement on Monday.

A ministry source, who asked not to be named, said 35 Russian diplomats would be expelled.

“This action is part of a European approach,” the foreign ministry statement added. “Our first responsibility is always to ensure the safety of French people and Europeans,” it said.

Germany on Monday expelled a “significant number” of Russian diplomats in what Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock called a response to the “unbelievable brutality” the Kremlin had unleashed in Ukraine.

Berlin’s move, AFP has learned, involves 40 Russians. Lithuania on Monday said it was expelling Russia’s ambassador over Russian aggression in Ukraine.

There has been outrage across Europe over killings in the town of Bucha near the capital where dozens of bodies were found in mass graves or littering the streets near Kyiv over the weekend.

The Kremlin has rejected Western accusations that Russian forces were responsible.

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POLITICS

Prosecutors: No new rape inquiry for France’s disabilities minister

France's disabilities minister will not face a new inquiry "as things stand" over a rape allegation that surfaced just after his nomination by President Emmanuel Macron last week, prosecutors have said, citing the anonymity of the alleged victim.

Prosecutors: No new rape inquiry for France's disabilities minister

Damien Abad has faced growing pressure to resign after the news website Mediapart reported the assault claims by two women dating from over a decade ago, which he has denied.

One of the women, identified only by her first name, Margaux, filed a rape complaint in 2017 that was later dismissed by prosecutors.

The other woman, known only as Chloe, told Mediapart that in 2010 she had blacked out after accepting a glass of champagne from Abad at a bar in Paris, and woke up in her underwear in pain with him in a hotel room. She believes she may have been drugged.

She did not file an official complaint, but the Paris prosecutors’ office said it was looking into the case after being informed by the Observatory of Sexist and Sexual Violence in Politics, a group formed by members of France’s MeToo movement.

“As things stand, the Paris prosecutors’ office is not following up on the letter” from the observatory, it said, citing “the inability to identify the victim of the alleged acts and therefore the impossibility of proceeding to a hearing.”

In cases of sexual assault against adults, Paris prosecutors can open an inquiry only if an official complaint is made, meaning the victim must give their identity.

Abad has rejected the calls to resign in order to ensure the new government’s “exemplarity,” saying that he is innocent and that his own condition of arthrogryposis, which limits the movement of his joints, means sexual relations can occur only with the help of a partner.

The appointment of Abad as minister for solidarities and people with disabilities in a reshuffle last Friday was seen as a major coup for Macron, as the 42-year-old had defected from the right-wing opposition.

The new prime minister, Elisabeth Borne, said she was unaware of the allegations before Abad’s nomination, but insisted that “If there is new information, if a new complaint is filed, we will draw all the consequences.”

The claims could loom large over parliamentary elections next month, when Macron is hoping to secure a solid majority for his reformist agenda. Abad will be standing for re-election in the Ain department north of Lyon.

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