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Countries expelling Russian diplomats

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Diplomats are being kicked out of more than 20 countries — including 18 European Union states, the United States and Canada — in a coordinated effort that represents a significant diplomatic victory for the UK, which blames Russia in the March 4 poisoning of former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, in Salisbury, England.The UK has already expelled 23 Russian diplomats. Moscow retaliated by sending the same number of UK diplomats back, and by shuttering British cultural institutions in the country. Here's what each country is doing:

European Union nations

Belgium: A Foreign Ministry spokesman told CNN the country would expel one diplomat to show solidarity with the UK.Croatia: Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said Croatia would expel one diplomat.Czech Republic: The Czech Republic will expel three diplomats, Prime Minister Andrej Babis and Foreign Minister Martin Stropnicky announced at a press conference. The Czech Foreign Ministry tweeted that it declared the diplomats "personae non gratae."Denmark: The Foreign Ministry announced two diplomats would be expelled. "We stand shoulder to shoulder with Britain and clearly say no to Russia at a time when Russia is also in threatening and seeking to undermine Western values and the rule-based international order in other areas," Foreign Minister Anders Samuelsen said. Estonia: TheEstonia Foreign Ministry told CNN one Russian diplomat, a defense attaché, would be expelled. Finland: Finland will expel one diplomat, its Foreign Ministry said. France: French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian announced the expulsion of four diplomats, who must leave the country within a week. He said that the decision followed the European Council's conclusions that the attack "posed a serious threat to our collective security" and that France was acting "in solidarity with our British partners."Germany: The German Foreign Ministry said Monday it would expel four diplomats. "In close coordination within the European Union and with NATO allies, the Federal Government has decided to ask four Russian diplomats to leave Germany within seven days. The request was sent to the Russian Embassy today," the ministry said in a statement.Hungary: The Foreign Ministry said Hungary would expel one diplomat over "what has been discussed at the European Council meeting," adding that the diplomat was "also conducting intelligence activities."Ireland: One Russian diplomat has been expelled, Ireland's minister for foreign affairs and trade, Simon Coveney, said in a statement Tuesday.Italy: The Italian Foreign Ministry said it will expel two diplomats from the Russian Embassy in Rome "as a sign of solidarity with the United Kingdom and in coordination with the European partners and NATO." Latvia: The Foreign Ministry told CNN it would expel one diplomat and one private citizen who runs the office of a Russian company in the capital, Riga. Lithuania: Foreign Affairs Minister Linas Linkevicius said on Twitter the country would expel three diplomats "in solidarity with the UK over #SalisburyAttack." Lithuania would also sanction an additional 21 individuals and ban 23 more from entering the country.Luxembourg: The country's Foreign Ministry said that it was recalling its ambassador to Moscow.Netherlands: Prime Minister Mark Rutte announced the expulsion of two diplomats, saying the use of chemical weapons was unacceptable.Poland: Poland's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it would expel four diplomats and said the attack showed how "a similar immediate threat to the territory and citizens of EU and NATO member states can happen anywhere."Romania: Romania's Foreign Ministry said on Twitter that one diplomat would be expelled.Spain: The Foreign Ministry said Spain would expel two diplomats. "From the outset, we have considered the nerve agent attack in Salisbury to be an extremely serious development that represents a significant threat to our collective security and to international law," the ministry said on Twitter.Sweden: The Foreign Ministry told CNN it would expel one diplomat.

Non-EU countries

Albania: The Ministry of Foreign Affairs told CNN it would expel two Russian diplomats. In a statement, the ministry called each diplomat a "persona non grata" and said the pair's activities were "not compliant to their diplomatic status."Australia: The government released a statement saying that it would expel two Russian diplomats "for actions inconsistent with their status, pursuant to the Vienna Conventions." The two diplomats must leave Australia within seven days, according to the statement.Canada: Ottawa said it was expelling four Russian diplomats alleged to be intelligence officers "or individuals who have used their diplomatic status to undermine Canada's security or interfere in our democracy." Additionally it was refusing three applications by Moscow for additional diplomatic staff. "The nerve agent attack represents a clear threat to the rules-based international order and to the rules that were established by the international community to ensure chemical weapons would never again destroy human lives," Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said. Macedonia: The Macedonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it would be expelling one Russian diplomat in response to the Skripal case. Moldova: The Foreign Ministry told CNN on Tuesday that it would expel three Russian diplomats and that they must leave the country within seven days. Montenegro: The Balkan state will expel one Russian diplomat, the government said in a tweet Wednesday. Norway: The Ministry of Foreign Affairs told CNN it would expel one Russian diplomat in response to the attack. "The use of a nerve agent in Salisbury is a very serious matter," Norwegian Foreign Minister Ine Eriksen Soreide said in a statement. "Such an incident must have consequences." Ukraine:President Petro Poroshenko said Ukraine, which has experienced years of hostility from Russia, including the annexation of Crimea, would expel 13 diplomats. "Russia has again reconfirmed its disdainful attitude to the sovereignty of independent states and the value of human life," Poroshenko said. United States: The White House said it was expelling 60 Russian diplomats identified as intelligence agents and also announced the closure of the Russian Consulate in Seattle. It represents the most forceful action that President Donald Trump has taken against Russia to date. Of those being expelled, 48 of the alleged intelligence agents work at the Russian Embassy in Washington and 12 are posted at the United Nations in New York, senior administration officials said.

CNN's Sheena McKenzie, Sebastian Shukla, Zahra Ullah, Carol Jordan and Nada Bashir contributed to this report.

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Ex French President quizzed over campaign cash allegations

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Sarkozy, 63, attended the questioning voluntarily on Tuesday, according to an official at the court.The official, who did not want to be named, said Sarkozy was being investigated by anti-corruption authorities.According to the official, Sarkozy was notified of the request to appear prior to today. Under French law, he can be held for up to 48 hours.Sarkozy, leader of France from 2007 until 2012, has been dogged by accusations of financial wrongdoing.In July 2012, shortly after he was ousted from office by the Socialist François Hollande, police raided Sarkozy's home as part of an investigation into alleged illegal assistance from L'Oréal heiress Liliane Bettencourt during the 2007 election campaign. Those charges were eventually dropped in 2013, but another investigation was opened the following year, and in February 2017 a judge ordered Sarkozy to face trial. That came after an embarrassing loss for the former President, as an attempt to return to frontline politics saw him finish third in the Republican party's presidential primary. The winner of that race, François Fillon, was subsequently defeated by centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron, who eventually won the presidency after a runoff against National Front leader Marine Le Pen.

CNN's James Griffiths contributed reporting.

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Putin files re-election bid as Kremlin critic calls for protests

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Putin, who has served as either Prime Minister or President of Russia since 1999, filed papers that pave the way for him to rule until 2024.The former KGB leader, who has dominated Russian politics for two decades, is likely to score a comfortable win — his only serious opponent, Alexey Navalny, was barred from standing against him due to a fraud conviction.Navalny called for a day protests on January 28. Writing on his blog on Wednesday, Navalny urged his supporters to "refuse to call Putin's reassignment an election." "We do not want to wait another six years. We want competitive elections right now," he wrote. The opposition leader's call to action comes just days after Russia's Central Election Commission (CEC) rejected his bid to enter the country's presidential race, citing a previous embezzlement conviction according to state-run media outlet RIA-Novosti.The decision to bar Navalny from the race came as no surprise. The 41-year old's candidacy was unlikely as Russian law prevents convicted criminals from running for public office. Navalny says his prosecution was politically motivated.Navalny has been instrumental in a political awakening of the country's youth, tapping into deep seated frustrations among supporters that have grown up in a sluggish economy and under endemic corruption.Support for the Russian dissident has been mobilized by a robust social media presence, dedicated teams of grassroots campaigners seen across the country, and Navalny Live, a live-streaming companion to his original YouTube channel that has more than 1.6 million subscribers. Those YouTube videos galvanized supporters to join in on the biggest anti-government protests that Russia has seen in years last March. Thousands joined rallies in almost 100 cities across the country; Navalny was arrested and jailed for 15 days. In October, thousands of people attended marches in 26 cities against Putin on the leader's 65th birthday.At his annual press conference earlier this month, Putin said his aim was for Russia to have a "competitive" and "balanced" political system, but it wasn't his responsibility to create political opponents."I want this," Putin said, "and I will strive for a balanced political system and that is impossible without competition in the political field."The election commission will rule on the validity of Putin's registration in the next few days, with an election set for March 2018.

CNN's Pamela Boykoff, Darya Tarasova and Clare Sebastian in Moscow contributed to this report.

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The post Putin files re-election bid as Kremlin critic calls for protests appeared first on News Wire Now.

It claims that the deal is likely to be ‘against the public interest’

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Murdoch-Trump and the Disney-Fox deal

A U.K. regulator is recommending that the government block Rupert Murdoch's planned $16 billion takeover of Sky TV in its current form.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said in a statement Tuesday that the proposed deal by Murdoch's 21st Century Fox(FOX) is likely to be "against the public interest" because it would give the mogul too much control over British media.

"Media plurality goes to the heart of our democratic process. It is very important that no group or individual should have too much control of our news media or too much power to affect the political agenda," said Anne Lambert, chair of the regulator's investigations group.

The CMA's recommendation is provisional. Its final report will be submitted to U.K. Culture Secretary Matt Hancock by May 1. He will then have to decide whether to block Murdoch.

If he does, Disney(DIS) — which is buying most of 21st Century Fox — would end up owning Fox's existing 39% stake in Sky. Disney would then have to decide whether to make its own offer for the remaining 61%.

The CMA proposed steps 21st Century Fox could take to address its concerns, including spinning off Sky News.

The British government asked the regulator in September to examine the Sky takeover because of concerns that the deal would concentrate too much power in the hands of the Murdoch family.

Murdoch already owns three of Britain's biggest newspapers: The Sun, The Times and The Sunday Times.

Related: Disney is buying itself a messy TV deal in Europe

21st Century Fox said in a statement Tuesday that it was "disappointed" by the CMA's provisional findings and would continue to engage with the regulator.

TV station can’t show final after censoring LGBT-themed song

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The European Broadcasting Union (EBU), which organizes the contest and distributes it to broadcasters around the world, said it had taken the action after Mango TV cut two acts in the first semifinal, broadcast on Tuesday.China's Global Times, a state-owned tabloid, said on Friday that the two acts — Ireland and Albania — fell foul of Chinese censors because they featured an LGBT theme and tattoos. In respons, the EBU barred Mango TV from broadcasting Thursday's second semifinal and the final, which involves acts from 26 countries and is this year being held in Lisbon, Portugal. "This is not in line with the EBU's values of universality and inclusivity and our proud tradition of celebrating diversity through music," a statement from the EBU said.Mango TV didn't immediately respond to a CNN request for comment. The Eurovision song contest could make you happier, new study suggestsThe Irish entry, Together, sung by Ryan O'Shaughnessy, is a love song about a relationship between two men and features two male dancers, while Albania's act involved performers with tattoos."A rainbow flag in the crowd, which represents the LGBT community, was also been blurred in the broadcast," the Global Times said.Guidelines released in China in 2016 characterized homosexuality as an "abnormal sexual behavior" unfit for Chinese television, alongside incest, sexual abuse and "perversion." O'Shaughnessy told the BBC he welcomed the decision. "From the very start we've just said love is love, doesn't matter if it's between two guys, two girls, or a guy and a girl," he said.Ireland, which holds the record for Eurovision wins but whose fortunes have waned in recent years, qualified for Saturday's grand final, as did Albania.

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A response to Nick Cave- Silencing of whose voice?

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Nick Cave is preparing to play the second of two concerts in Israel. Justifying his decision to perform despite the cultural boycott of Israel, Cave framed his act as a statement against “the silencing of artists.”

A few miles away from Cave’s press conference celebrating his concerts, Palestinian poet Dareen Tatour remains under house arrest. Tatour, a Palestinian citizen of Israel, was arrested in 2015 for posting a poem online. Numerous civil liberty organisations including PEN International, have campaigned for her release. 300 writers, including 11 Pulitzer Prize winners, signed a 2016 letter condemning the attempt to silence her voice. Tatour has announced that if she is released from detention she will leave Israel as she cannot be truly free under its apartheid regime.

“I don’t think they will leave me alone…I cannot live without poetry. They will examine everything I write. Therefore, I will do what every poet who wants to be free does: leave. I will look for my life elsewhere. It is very hard for me to say this, but it comes after much thought. They want me to stop writing. For me to be a poet without a pen and without feelings. But if I cannot mourn for my compatriots who are being killed, how will I be able to be a poet?”

Her lawyer, Abed Fahoum, told the press “I believe that they aim to use her to intimidate and silence all Palestinians.”

Dareen Tatour’s case is a prominent example of Israel’s systematic suppression of Palestinian culture, art and freedom of political expression. In recent years, these have included the banning of public readings of Palestinian poetry , closing down of plays as well as the detention of artists. The writer Ahmad Qatamesh, who has been declared a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International, has been jailed in eight of the last 25 years.

But it is not the silencing of voices like Tatour, and Qatemeh, nor of any Palestinian suffering under Israeli oppression, that Nick Cave has chosen to protest. It is the threats he perceives to his own freedom of expression that concern him. As for the nature of those threats, they emerge it seems from his being asked to sign petitions and from fans and other artists asking him to make a moral choice not to perform in Israel until it ends its systematic violations of Palestinian human rights.
Nick Cave will play his concert tonight and like Radiohead before him will doubtless be celebrated by the Israeli authorities for his decision. Israeli diplomats worldwide celebrated Radiohead’s decision to play a concert in Tel Aviv earlier this year and the Jerusalem Post described their decision as “the best hasbara [advocacy] Israel has received lately”.

As Cave plays and celebrates his “artistic freedom” Dareen Tatour, entering the 769th day of her detention, will continue to receive support from the artists of conscience around the world who know the real meaning of artistic integrity and courage.

As the writer and civil rights activist James Baldwin said, “There is such a thing as integrity. Some people are noble. There is such a thing as courage. The terrible thing is that the reality behind these words depends ultimately on what the human being (meaning every single one of us) believes to be real. The terrible thing is that the reality behind all these words depends on choices one has got to make, for ever and ever and ever, every day.”

Ben Jamal, Director- Palestine Solidarity Campaign

The post A response to Nick Cave- Silencing of whose voice? appeared first on News Wire Now.

Japan and EU sign massive trade deal

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How to negotiate a trade deal

The European Union and Japan signed a huge free trade deal on Tuesday that cuts or eliminates tariffs on nearly all goods.

The agreement covers 600 million people and almost a third of the global economy. It's also a major endorsement of a global trading system that is under increasing threat from protectionism.

It will remove tariffs on European exports such as cheese and wine. Japanese automakers and electronics firms will face fewer barriers in the European Union.

The dismantling of trade barriers stands in stark contrast to the approach taken by President Donald Trump, who has imposed tariffs on a range of foreign goods and is threatening more action.

Donald Tusk, president of the European Council, hailed the agreement as the "largest bilateral trade deal ever."

"Relations between the European Union and Japan have never been stronger," he said in a written statement. "Geographically, we are far apart. But politically and economically we could hardly be any closer."

Japan and the European Union traded roughly €129 billion ($152 billion) of goods last year, according to EU data.

Related: Trump missed his chance to cut Canada's dairy tariffs

With the largest bilateral trade deal EVER, today we cement Japanese-European friendship. Geographically, we are far apart. But politically and economically we could hardly be any closer. With shared values of liberal democracy, human rights and the rule of law. pic.twitter.com/ICcGTY3XI8

— Donald Tusk (@eucopresident) July 17, 2018

Baker McKenzie partner Ross Denton said the deal signed Tuesday sends "a very strong signal to the US Administration that the EU and Japan, two major trade partners of the US, both see the benefits of removing barriers and reducing, not increasing tariffs."

EU trade commissioner Cecilia Malmström said last month that Europe was willing to lower some of its tariffs and cooperate with the United States. But the Trump administration "closed the door" on the talks and subsequently slapped tariffs on EU steel and aluminum.New American tariffs on European cars could follow soon.

Trump also pulled the United States out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership at the start of his presidency, another trade deal that lowered tariffs and trade barriers for the 11 remaining signatories.

japan eu handshake
Japan and the European Union signed a new free trade deal on Tuesday.

Average global tariffs are near record lows. EU products currently face an average tariff of 1.6% when they arrive in Japan, while Japanese products face tariffs of 2.9% in the European Union, according to the World Trade Organization.

Still, the European Union said the tariffs cost its companies up to €1 billion ($1.2 billion) per year.

The trade deal is expected to come into force in 2019 after being approved by lawmakers on both sides.

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Russian opposition leader had called for rallies on ‘rigged elections’

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Navalny wrote that he was released until a court hearing, but did not provide details on when the hearing would be held. He also thanked demonstrators who had gathered near the detention center where he was being held. Navalny, a longtime critic of President Vladimir Putin, was arrested earlier Sunday during nationwide rallies protesting what the opposition leader calls rigged presidential elections set to take place on March 18. "I've been detained. This doesn't matter. Come to Tverskaya (Street). You are not going there for me, it's for you and your future," Navalny tweeted after his arrest.Within minutes of arriving at Pushkinskaya Square, where hundreds of protesters had gathered, Navalny was wrestled into a patrol van by police, in dramatic footage posted on Youtube.Moscow Police said Navalny was taken to a police station for arraignment on charges of illegally organizing a protest. If found guilty, he faces 30 days in detention and a fine. Hundreds of demonstrators fill Pushkinskaya Square in central Moscow.Coordinating protests in the largest country in the world by land mass is no small task, and the Russian Interior Ministry said events coordinated with local authorities were held in 46 places.Demonstrations have ranged from gatherings of a few dozen in remote areas to about a thousand people in central Moscow–which the Interior Ministry described as an "uncoordinated mass demonstration." Protesters also turned out in arctic areas of the country, where the temperature during winter is around -40 degrees, said CNN's Fred Pleitgen in Moscow.Elsewhere, there were 600 demonstrators in Russia's third-most populous city, Novosibirsk, and 550 protesters in Nizhny Novgorod in western Russia, the ministry said.Around 1,000 protesters gathered in the Moscow area Sunday, police said."I am proud of all those who joined us today in any capacity: from Magadan to Sochi. From the FBK office to the headquarters in Kemerovo. From Krasnodar to Yakutsk, where the meeting took place at -40. These are real citizens," Navalny said in a Facebook post."Be real citizens. Go out to the demo in your city."

Police interrupt broadcast

Earlier Navalny said police forced their way into his Moscow office hours before the protests were due to take place. A Russian police officer stands outside Alexei Navalny's Moscow office on Sunday.He said police sawed through the door of the office's studio during a YouTube broadcast Sunday morning."In order to take down our broadcast, the police cut out the door to the Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK) office, and then began to saw the door to the studio right in the middle of broadcast," he said in a Facebook post."Do you know the formal reason? Dmitry Nizovtsev, the host, was accused of planting a bomb (without actually going off air, we must assume), and it was necessary to cut the doors ASAP in order to find this bomb."And then they detained him. Watch it, it's a good example of what the Russian police has become."CNN contacted the Moscow police, but officials there said they "have no information regarding the raids."Service members gather at Triumfalnaya Square ahead of an opposition rally calling for a boycott of March 18 presidential elections.Eight staff members from Navalny's Moscow offices were detained in the raid and were among 185 people arrested across the country, according to independent monitoring group OVD-Info. They included the head of Navalny's Moscow headquarters, Nikolay Lyaskin, who was grabbed by police on his way out of the office, according to Navalny press secretary Kira Yarmysh.During the raid, police also seized computers and cameras from the office, tweeted the director of Navalny's Anti-Corruption Foundation, Roman Rubanov.One protester in Moscow brandishes a placard saying: "Demand lawful election."

Navalny's weapon of choice

Putin controls and dominates Russian State TV, where there has so far been no mention of the demonstrations.Instead, Navalny and his supporters have turned to YouTube to get their message out, with over 50,000 people watching his live feed as of Sunday morning.

Who is Alexei Navalny?

Navalny, Russia's best-known opposition leader, was barred from running in the upcoming elections after a 2017 criminal conviction for embezzlement. The Russia threat is real -- and it mattersCritics say the case against the 41-year-old was politically motivated.In an exclusive interview with CNN at his Moscow headquarters last week, Navalny accused the Putin administration of being "built on corruption" and warned of growing impatience for political change. "Putin has been in power for 18 years now," he said. "People are not ready to wait another six years, then another six, then another."The Kremlin has rejected allegations of widespread, high-level corruption and has condemned Navalny as a dangerous influence whose calls for protests could plunge Russia into chaos.

CNN's Antonia Mortensen, Fred Pleitgen, Carol Jordan and Dakin Andone contributed to this report

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Russians win gold — then sing national anthem

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That was in violation of the strict neutrality rules the International Olympic Committee (IOC) had set out for the OAR team, which was made up of more than 160 Russian athletes who were able to prove they hadn't been doping after their country was banned from PyeongChang 2018 because of alleged state-sponsored doping before and during the 2014 Sochi Olympics. "I think from the beginning we had this inkling inside each one of us and then, as we lined up, we said we will sing the anthem and that's it," Bogdan Kiselevich told reporters after the OAR's 4-3 overtime win. *We're prohibited from having the flag so we had to do something at least. We sang because we're Russian people and when you win, the anthem is played. It was in our souls and heart."Questioned whether he was afraid the team would be punished for singing the anthem, Kiselevich responded: "It's freedom of speech."The OAR team's Nikita Gusev had scored in the final minute of regulation to force overtime. Kirill Kaprizov then scored the gold-medal-clinching goal to hand the team its 17th medal, but only its second gold medal of the Games. The last time Russia won's men's Olympic ice hockey gold was back in 1992 when it competed as the Unified Team following the break up of the Soviet Union.A few hours before the ice hockey finals, the IOC had decided not to let the OAR athletes march into the Olympic stadium later for Sunday's Closing Ceremony under the Russian flag and in their national colors.After the OAR team's ice hockey win, US slopestyle skier Gus Kenworthy tweeted: "Russia's biggest win since the 2016 US Presidential election."The German ice hockey team in action during the gold medal match.  READ: U.S. women's hockey: From fighting for better pay to fighting for goldREAD: Russian athletes banned from marching behind flag

Germany silver, Canada bronze

Germany, the 60-1 outsiders, had pulled off one of the biggest upsets in Olympic history when it knocked out nine-time Olympic champions Canada in the semifinals, but there was no fairytale ending.Despite Sunday's defeat, Germany's 2018 silver medal ended a 42-year medal drought in men's ice hockey. No German team had reached the Olympic podium since West Germany claimed bronze at the Innsbruck Games in 1976.Canada, which had won three gold medals in the past four Olympics, defeated the Czech Republic on Saturday to take bronze.

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Qatari royals’ jewels stolen in Venice

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Written by By Lauren Said-Moorhouse, Lorenzo D'AgostinoNicola Ruotolo, CNNRome

In a plot worthy of a Hollywood heist film, thieves mingled with other visitors to an exhibition in Venice on Wednesday before brazenly making off with gems of "indisputably elevated value," the canal city's police chief said.

The working theory being developed by investigating officers suggests that at least two people entered the Doge's Palace — a popular tourist spot in Venice where a selection of Indian jewelry from the Qatari royal collection was on display to the public.

One suspect acted as lookout while the other grabbed the jewels from a display case, police believe.

A poster indicating the precious display hangs from Venice's Doge's Palace.Credit: Andrea Merola/AP

Venice Police Chief Vito Danilo Gagliardi said that the stolen items were a pair of earrings and a brooch made of diamonds, gold and platinum. The pieces — owned by Sheikh Hamad bin Abdullah Al Thani — were snatched in the bold daytime robbery on the last day of the exhibit.

A preliminary investigation revealed that the pair were able to delay the alarm system for one minute so it wasn't triggered until the thieves were making their escape, Gagliardi said. He described the culprits as "skilled."

"They were certainly well prepared and hit in a targeted way," Gagliardi said.

The police chief suggested the jewels would be difficult to sell on because of their international recognition and might, therefore, be disassembled and sold separately.

Over 270 pieces of Indian Mughal jewelry dated from the 16th to the 20th century were being shown to the public. Credit: Andrea Merola/AP

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