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A painting by Pierre Auguste Renoir valued at up to 160,000 euros (£141,000) has been stolen from a Vienna auction house.

The Golfe, mer, falaises vertes, a lesser-known landscape by the prolific French impressionist, was snatched by three men from its frame on display on Monday ahead of a planned sale at the Dorotheum auction house.

A police spokesman said: “The men left the site through different exits and fled.”

The painting was stolen from the Dorotheum auction house in Vienna
The painting was stolen from the Dorotheum auction house in Vienna

They released pictures of the three suspects taken from security-camera footage and added the heist had been professional.

The Dorotheum, Vienna’s best-known auction house in the heart of the city, confirmed that a theft had taken place but would not provide further details.

The painting was estimated at 120,000 to 160,000 euros and had been due to go under the hammer on Wednesday evening.

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Search underway after US warplanes crash off Japan



Six US servicemen are missing after two American warplanes collided in midair and crashed into the Pacific Ocean.

The US Marine Corps said an F/A-18 fighter jet and a KC-130 tanker aircraft were involved in the accident, which happened off the southwestern coast of Japan during “regularly scheduled training” on Thursday.

Of the seven crew members on board the planes – five on the KC-130 and two on the F/A-18 – only one has been found so far.

Japanese rescuers said he was in a stable condition and are continuing to search the waters for the other six servicemen about 60 miles south of the Muroto Cape on Shikoku island.

The US Marines said: “We are thankful for the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force’s efforts as they immediately responded in the search and rescue operation.”

Both planes are usually based at a US site in Iwakuni, west of Hiroshima, where many of the 50,000 American troops stationed in Japan also stay.

The crash comes just a month after a US F/A-18 Hornet from the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan crashed into the sea southwest of Okinawa.

And in mid-October, an MH-60 Seahawk belonging to the same carrier crashed off the Philippine Sea after takeoff.

Nobody was killed in either of the accidents.

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Don’t expect Russia or US to budge in nuclear weapons row



Vladimir Putin has accused the US of starting an unofficial arms race – a day after Washington threatened to pull out of a key treaty limiting nuclear arms.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the Trump administration will ditch the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty within 60 days unless Moscow dismantles missiles that allegedly violate the agreement.

However, Russia’s president claimed the US has decided it “has to have these weapons”, prompting his country to “do the same” in response.

Sky’s Moscow correspondent Diana Magnay says the world could become a considerably more dangerous place if the treaty falls apart:

Russia will not provide. It will not kowtow to NATO. The Cold War days of watching piles of missiles burn are over.

The Kremlin professes to a desire to safeguard the treaty, and wearily laments the US rush to withdraw.

On Tuesday, the US had threatened to withdraw from a major Cold War treaty limiting mid-range nuclear missiles, demanding that Russia dismantle weapons it claims violate the deal.

But Vladimir Putin has responded to the threats with defiance.

He rejects the charge of non-compliance, arguing instead that the US is in violation because of the supposed dual-use capabilities of some of its European-based missile launchers.

Mike Pompeo has issued Russia an ultimatum
Mike Pompeo has issued Russia an ultimatum

Last Friday, the US director of national intelligence Dan Coats outlined for the first time the specifics of the Russian violation.

This is worth explaining – so bear with me.

This is the first time since the Obama administration first claimed a Russian breach that we have seen this level of data with regard to Russian weapon testing.

Coats said Russia had flight-tested the Novator-9M729 missile to distances over 500km from a fixed ground-based launcher.

Such a test would be under the terms of the treaty – if there was no intention to keep the missile ground-based.

Russia then tested it from a mobile launcher – which could be anything as simple as a truck – to distances less than 500km.

Put those two together, and the Russians have ergo tested a medium-range missile from a mobile launcher – prohibited by the treaty.

One military analyst here told me it would be possible to fill the fuel tank with less fuel and it would travel less far.

For Russia, this is called following the letter of the law. For the US and NATO, it is breaking the spirit of the agreement.

Both sides are at loggerheads. Don’t expect either to budge.

The Kremlin has made absolutely clear since Donald Trump first announced he wanted out of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty that Russia would be obliged to place missiles pointing in Europe’s direction if the US placed missiles in Europe pointing in theirs.

Mr Putin repeated that today.

His chief of the general staff, Valery Gerasimov, went further – reminding assembled military attaches that it would be the countries that facilitated US missile systems, and not the US itself, which would become targets in the event of a Russian response.

Romania and Poland – here’s looking at you.

Just 60 days to go. With continued intransigence and the limited lead-time that short and intermediate-range missiles provide, the world thereafter and Europe especially could become a considerably more dangerous place.

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France abandons petrol price hikes in response to violent protests



France has scrapped plans for all petrol price hikes in 2019 following weeks of violent protests.

Just a day after Prime Minister Edouard Philippe announced the rises would be suspended for six months from their original introduction date in January, the environment minister confirmed that they had been cancelled completely.

Minister Francois de Rugy told BFM TV that the government had decided to ditch the plans in their entirety in order to assuage fears that the increase would be be reintroduced as soon as the protests came to an end.

A third rally is expected to take place in Paris later on Saturday
Protesters think Mr Macron is out of touch with the working class

Demonstrations against what would have been one of Emmanuel Macron’s flagship policies began on 17 November.

While welcome ecologically, any increase to fuel prices stood to severely impact those already struggling financially because of low wages, high taxes and high unemployment.

Three weeks of protests have left four people dead, hundreds injured and central Paris littered with burned cars and shattered windows.

Emmanuel Macron (C) with Interior Minister Christophe Castaner (2ndR) and Paris police chief Michel Delpuech (R) arrive at the Arc de Triomphe
Emmanuel Macron was booed as he toured one of the protest sites in Paris

As he toured the site of rioting in the capital earlier this week, Mr Macron was booed.

The president – who enjoyed a landslide election victory last year – now has an approval rating below 30%.

He has not commented since the price hike was suspended on Tuesday, but Mr Philippe said the government would have to be “deaf or blind” not to recognise that the policy was widely unpopular.

He added that “no tax should endanger national unity” and the “violence must stop”.

Mr Macron’s misery was likely compounded by a tweet from US President Donald Trump, who has been vocal critic of the the Paris climate agreement his French counterpart is so committed to.

On Tuesday, he wrote: “I am glad that my friend @EmmanuelMacron and the protesters in Paris have agreed with the conclusion I reached two years ago.

“The Paris agreement is fatally flawed because it raises the price of energy for responsible countries while whitewashing some of the worst polluters in the world.”

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