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UN chief warns of Cold War-like tensions between Moscow, Washington

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has warned of a return to the Cold War-like tensions between the United States and Russia in the wake of a nerve agent attack on a former Russian spy in Britain blamed on Moscow.

According to Press TV, Guterres told reporters at the UN headquarters in New York on Thursday “I think we are coming to a situation that is similar, to a large extent, to what we lived during the Cold War.”

He then called on Washington and Moscow to re-establish lines of communication in a bid to avoid any escalation of tensions.

“During the Cold War there were mechanisms of communication and control to avoid the escalation of incidents, to make sure that things would not get out of control when tensions would rise. Those mechanisms have been dismantled,” the UN secretary general pointed out.

“I do believe it’s time for precautions of this sort – guaranteeing effective communication, guaranteeing capacity to prevent escalation – I do believe that mechanisms of this sort are necessary again,” Guterres noted.

Guterres then drew a distinction between the situation now and the Cold War era, stating that a key difference is that there are now “many other actors that are relatively independent and with an important role in many of the conflicts that we are witnessing, with risks of escalation that are well known.”

The Cold War was a state of geopolitical tension after World War II between the US and its Western allies on one side, and the then Soviet Union and the other Eastern bloc states.

The US, European nations and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) countries have announced plans to expel over 150 Russian diplomats in retaliation for the poisoning of ex-double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in a nerve agent attack in the English city of Salisbury on March 4.

Medical sources at the hospital, where the two are receiving treatment, said on Thursday, that Yulia, 33, was “improving rapidly and is no longer in a critical condition,” while 66-year-old Sergei remained in a critical but stable condition.

60 US diplomats ordered to leave by April 5

Also on Thursday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Moscow would expel 60 US diplomats and close the American consulate in Saint Petersburg in a tit-for-tat expulsion.

Lavrov said that US Ambassador Jon Meade Huntsman Jr. had been informed of “retaliatory measures,” adding, “They include the expulsion of the equivalent number of diplomats and our decision to withdraw permission for the functioning of the US consulate general in Saint Petersburg.”

Earlier, the Russia Foreign Ministry said it had ordered the US diplomats to leave by April 5.

The United States said on Monday it would expel 60 Russian diplomats, including 12 posted to the country’s UN mission in New York, and shut down the Russia’s consulate general in Seattle.

Relations between Washington and Moscow have been sour in recent years over a range of issues, including Russia’s annexation of the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea, foreign-sponsored militancy in Syria and allegations of Russian meddling in the 2016 US presidential election.

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