London, Aug 14 (AP/UNB) — The man who was Britain's top finance official until three weeks ago broke his silence on the new administration Wednesday, saying "unelected people" are pushing the government toward a damaging no-deal Brexit that isn't backed by Parliament or the voters.
Philip Hammond, who stepped down as Treasury chief before Boris Johnson became prime minister, said the government is making demands that are bound to derail talks with the European Union because they are unacceptable to the bloc. Writing in the Times of London, Hammond said Johnson had moved from a tough negotiating stance to a "wrecking" one by insisting on changes to the withdrawal agreement hammered out over the past two years.
"The unelected people who pull the strings of this government know that this is a demand the EU cannot, and will not, accede to," he said. "Not just because they will be stubborn in their defense of the single market (although they will) but because the fragility of their own coalition of 27 means that any attempt on their side to reopen the package would see their unity collapse."
Hammond also criticized the government for perpetuating the "myths" that the British people voted for a no-deal Brexit and that leaving the EU without a negotiated settlement would be painless.
During the 2016 referendum on EU membership, voters were told that a deal to protect Britain's trade with the bloc would be easy to negotiate, Hammond said. He added that "all credible economic analysis" shows that the costs of leaving without a deal would far outweigh the benefits.
"It's time for our government to demonstrate a commitment to a genuine negotiation with the EU to achieve a deal that will maintain Britain's trade with its nearest neighbors, protect British jobs and ensure our future prosperity," Hammond said.
Moscow, Aug 10 (AP/UNB) — Tens of thousands of people rallied in central Moscow for the third consecutive weekend to protest the exclusion of opposition and independent candidates from the Russian capital's city council ballot.
The protest on Saturday appeared to have by far the largest turnout of the recent rallies over an issue tapping strong dissatisfaction with Russia's tightly controlled politics.
A group that monitors attendance of public meetings, Beliye Schetchik, said it counted about 40,000 people at the demonstration; a police estimate put the crowd at 20,000.
Unlike the previous two protests, which saw sometimes violent police crackdowns and thousands of arrests combined, the one on Saturday was sanctioned by city authorities.
Some opposition figures called for an unauthorized march to follow the permitted rally.
Police on Saturday detained Lyubov Sobol, one of the city council candidates denied a place on the ballot and a spearhead of the election protest.
A video on Sobol's Twitter feed showed officers breaking into her office as she demanded an explanation from them.
Small related protests also were reported in several Siberian cities on Saturday.
Stockholm, Aug 7 (AP/UNB) — Danish police say a powerful explosion has occurred outside a tax office in the capital, Copenhagen, shattering windows and damaging the building. No one is believed to have been injured.
Police said that the explosion happened late Tuesday.
Chief Police Inspector Jorgen Bergen Skov said in a statement that a "broad and comprehensive" investigation is underway but that "it is too early to say exactly who is behind the explosion."
Police are calling on anyone with information relevant to the investigation to come forward.
Madrid, Aug 6 (AP/UNB) — Spanish emergency services say they have responded to a British Airways flight that filled with smoke while landing and had to evacuate its passengers.
News agency Europa Press said Monday that local government officials reported that three people have been treated for smoke inhalation and another 10 to 12 were treated for knocks received when they slid down inflatable emergency slides after arriving at the airport in the eastern city of Valencia.
Emergency services for the regional government of Valencia say they received an alert that one of the plane's engines had caught fire. Responders only saw smoke when they got to the airport.
An airline spokesman said: "We can confirm that British Airways flight BA422 from Heathrow to Valencia has been involved in an incident today."
Damascus, Aug 5 (AP/UNB) — Russia's military says militants fired three unguided rockets at its air base in Syria, injuring four civilians but causing no damage to the facility.
The Russian defense ministry said Monday that the rockets hit a village near the Hmeimeem air base in Latakia province on Syria's Mediterranean coast.
The attack comes as the Syrian army says it will resume its offensive on the northwestern Idlib province, the last opposition-held stronghold, accusing insurgents of violating a recent truce.
The cease fire, which went into effect Aug. 1, marked a brief pause in the stalled three-month offensive against al-Qaida-linked militants and other jihadi groups that dominate Idlib and surrounding areas.
The Syrian army says it will resume its offensive on the rebel-held northwestern Idlib province, accusing insurgents of violating a recent truce.
In a statement carried by state media Monday, the army said militants in the country's last major rebel stronghold had continued to break the cease fire, which went into effect late Aug. 1.
State media and opposition activists have reported repeated violations of the truce by both sides since then.
The cease fire marked a brief pause in the stalled government offensive against al-Qaida-linked militants and other jihadi groups, which dominate Idlib and surrounding areas.
The assault on the enclave began April 30, displacing more than 400,000 people and killing hundreds. Around 3 million people are living inside the rebel-held area.
Turkish and American military officials have met for negotiations about establishing a safe zone in northeastern Syria to address Ankara's concerns about U.S-allied Syrian Kurdish forces in that region.
The Turkish defense ministry tweeted on Monday that the meetings were taking place in Ankara.
Turkey wants to control — in coordination with the U.S. — a 19-25 mile-deep zone within Syria, east of the Euphrates River, and wants no Syrian Kurdish forces there. Turkey sees the Syrian Kurdish fighters as terrorists aligned with a Kurdish insurgency within Turkey.
American troops are stationed in northeastern Syria, along with the Kurdish forces, and have fought the Islamic State group together.
Turkish-U.S. negotiations on the safe zone have stalled and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday renewed threats for a new military operation.