Skripal rejects

Russian help

LONDON (TNS) — Yulia Skripal, who is recovering after being poisoned together with her father, former Russian spy Sergei Skripal, in England last month, said Wednesday she does not want assistance from the Russian Embassy.

The younger Skripal, who was released from hospital Tuesday, said she had “been made aware of my specific contacts at the Russian Embassy who have kindly offered me their assistance in any way they can.”

Russia has repeatedly asked for access to Yulia, who is a Russian citizen, and has suggested the possibility she is being held against her will.

However, in a statement shared by Britain’s Metropolitan Police, she said: “At the moment I do not wish to avail myself of their services, but, if I change my mind I know how to contact them.”

Yulia said her father is “still seriously ill” and that she is also “still suffering with the effects of the nerve agent used against us.”

The Skripals were found unconscious on a bench in the city of Salisbury on March 4 following exposure to Novichok, a military-grade Russian nerve agent.

The elder Skripal, a former colonel in Russian military intelligence, was convicted of selling Russian state secrets to Britain in 2006. He was traded to Britain in a high-profile spy swap four years later.

The attack aggravated an already strained relationship between Russia and the West, with London blaming Moscow for the poisoning of the double-agent and his daughter. The United States and more than 20 of Britain’s other allies have sided with London by expelling Russian diplomats.

Russia has repeatedly denied any involvement and demanded access to London’s case materials.

— dpa


At least 257

killed in crash

BLIDA, Algeria (TNS) — A military transport plane slammed into a field near the Algerian capital Wednesday, killing at least 257 people in the North African nation’s worst aviation disaster.

It was not immediately clear what caused the crash, which occurred shortly after takeoff from the Boufarik military airport, 16 miles southwest of Algiers. The army’s chief of staff, Maj. Gen. Ahmed Gaid Salah, went to inspect the site and ordered an investigation, the Ministry of National Defense said in a statement.

The victims consisted of 247 passengers — most of them soldiers and their families — and 10 crew members, the statement said. There was no mention of any survivors.

The Polisario Front, an Algerian-backed movement that seeks independence from Morocco for the Western Sahara region, said 30 of its people were among those killed. They were refugees, including women and children, who had received treatment in Algerian hospitals, the group told The Associated Press.

Victims’ remains were being transported to a military hospital in the town of Ain Naadja for identification.

— Los Angeles Times