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British embassy guard faces jail for spying for Moscow

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British embassy guard faces jail for spying for Moscow

A former security guard at the UK’s Berlin embassy, who pleaded guilty to spying for Moscow, faces up to 14 years in prison when he is sentenced on Friday. 

David Ballantyne Smith, 58, admitted to passing sensitive material to the Russian embassy in Germany and was then caught in a sting operation.

Judge Mark Wall said Thursday that he would sentence Smith on the basis that he had an “ongoing relationship” with Moscow and was “paid for his treachery”.

The sentencing hearing starts at 1000 GMT at the Old Bailey Court in central London.

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The judge rejected Smith’s claims that he had passed information to Moscow only twice in order to cause “embarrassment” to the UK.

Smith “was motivated by his antipathy towards this country and intended to damage this country’s interests by acting as he did,” the judge added.

The military veteran, originally from Paisley in western Scotland, had worked at the Berlin embassy for five years.

Prosecutors said Smith first wrote to the Russian embassy in 2020, revealing details of British embassy staff and suggesting further contact.

After the UK and German authorities found out about this, they formed a plot to try to catch Smith in the act.

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Fake spies
Smith was told that a Russian citizen called Dmitry — in reality a UK agent — wanted to visit the British embassy to pass on sensitive information.

Smith then filmed CCTV footage of “Dmitry” inside the embassy and took packaging from a phone SIM card given to him.

Another UK agent later approached Smith pretending to be “Irina”, an operative in Russia’s GRU military intelligence service.

In covert video, Smith told her: “I don’t trust the bastards I work for” and “I don’t want to be in Germany. I’m stuck in the land of Nazi bastards”.

He was arrested at his flat soon afterwards in August 2021 and later extradited to the UK.

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Smith told the court this week he felt “ashamed” when he saw the British embassy staff he had betrayed.

He claimed he had only wanted to cause “inconvenience and embarrassment”.

But the court heard Smith later made several videos of sensitive areas inside the embassy building.

Prosecutor Alison Morgan said Smith filmed offices in detail, showing their precise locations.

She asked him “who was directing those videos?” and Smith said: “No one at all”, claiming he was drunk at the time.

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He denied being paid, but appeared to have extra money from 2020 and around 800 euros (around $857) in cash was found at his home that could not be accounted for, the court heard.

Smith is married to a Ukrainian woman who moved back to her home country in 2018.

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White-led DA party joins ANC in South African unity government

White-led DA party joins ANC in South African unity government

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White-led DA party joins ANC in South African unity government

 The African National Congress and its largest rival, the white-led, pro-business Democratic Alliance, agreed on Friday to work together in South Africa’s new government of national unity, a step change after 30 years of ANC majority rule.

Once unthinkable, the deal between two sharply antagonistic parties is the most momentous political shift in South Africa since Nelson Mandela led the ANC to victory in the 1994 elections that marked the end of apartheid.

“Today, South Africa is a better country than it was yesterday. For the first time since 1994, we’ve embarked on a peaceful and democratic transfer of power to a new government that will be different from the previous one,” DA leader John Steenhuisen said in a televised address.

“From today, the DA will co-govern the Republic of South Africa in a spirit of unity and collaboration,” he said, adding that multi-party government was the “new normal”.

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The ANC lost its majority for the first time in an election on May 29 and has spent two weeks locked in intensive behind-the-scenes talks with other parties, which came down to the wire on Friday morning as the new parliament was convening.

The DA’s entry into national government is a big moment for a country still processing the legacy of the racist colonial and apartheid regimes. The party has struggled to shake off its image as a defender of rich white people and convince a broad spectrum of South Africans that it reflects their aspirations.

Two smaller parties, the socially conservative Inkatha Freedom Party and the right-wing Patriotic Alliance, will also take part in the unity government, they said. 

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Hamas’ armed wing says Israeli airstrike killed two hostages in Rafah

Hamas’ armed wing says Israeli airstrike killed two hostages in Rafah

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Hamas' armed wing says Israeli airstrike killed two hostages in Rafah

Hamas’ armed wing al-Qassam Brigades said on Friday that two Israeli hostages held in Gaza were killed in an Israeli airstrike on Rafah a few days ago.

The group, in a video posted on its Telegram channel, did not release the names of those said to have been killed or provide any evidence.

The Israeli government “does not want your hostages to return, except in coffins,” the al-Qassam Brigades statement said.

Israel rescued four hostages held by Hamas in a hostage-freeing operation in central Gaza’s al-Nuseirat on June 8. The health ministry in Hamas-run Gaza said more than 250 Palestinians were killed in the raid.

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The war in Gaza erupted when Hamas militants stormed southern Israel on Oct. 7, killing around 1,200 people and seizing more than 250 hostages, according to Israeli tallies. 

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US attack sub, Canada navy patrol ship arrive in Cuba on heels of Russian warships

US attack sub, Canada navy patrol ship arrive in Cuba on heels of Russian warships

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US attack sub, Canada navy patrol ship arrive in Cuba on heels of Russian warships

A Canadian navy patrol ship sailed into Havana early on Friday, just hours after the United States announced a fast-attack submarine had docked at its Guantanamo naval base on Cuba, both vessels on the heels of Russian warships that arrived on the island earlier this week.

The confluence of Russian, Canadian and U.S. vessels in Cuba – a Communist-ruled island nation just 160 km (100 miles) from Florida – served up a reminder of old Cold War tensions and of current fraught ties between Russia and Western nations over the Ukraine war.

However, both the U.S. and Cuba have said the Russian warships pose no threat to the region. Russia has also characterized the arrival of its warships in allied Cuba as routine.

The Admiral Gorshkov frigate and the nuclear-powered submarine Kazan, half submerged with its crew on deck, sailed into Havana harbor on Wednesday after conducting “high-precision missile weapons” training in the Atlantic Ocean.

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Canada`s Margaret Brooke patrol vessel began maneuvers early on Friday to enter Havana harbor, part of what the Canadian Joint Operations Command called “a port visit…in recognition of the long-standing bilateral relationship between Canada and Cuba.”

A Canadian diplomat characterized the Margaret Brooke`s arrival as “routine and part of long-standing cooperation between our two countries”, adding it was “unrelated to the presence of the Russian ships.”

Russia and Cuba were close allies under the former Soviet Union and tensions with Washington over Communism in its “backyard” peaked with the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. Moscow, which has maintained ties with Havana, has questioned the apparent nervousness of the West over the warships this week. 

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