this is bbc news. the headlines at 12. russia's foreign minister calls on president putin to expel 35 us diplomats, in retaliation for a similar move by washington. the syria ceasefire between the government and rebel groups appears largely to be holding, despite reports of isolated clashes. drivers are told to take care in fog and freezing conditions, as a coach overturns on the mao in oxfordshire, injuring 17 people. a warning that national parks are under threat, as figures suggest government funding has been cut over the past five years. also in the next hour — learner drivers could be allowed on motorways. it's part of proposals to give learners a voluntary target for a minimum number of lessons before taking their test. and as the international olympic committee creates a new team of refugees, we've been following some of the hopefuls. that's in half an hour on bbc news. welcome to bbc news.
the russian foreign ministry has announced it intends to expel 31 american diplomats from its embassy in moscow and four from its consulate in st petersburg. the measure is in response to president obama's decision to kick out 35 diplomats because of allegations that russia interfered in the american presidential election. the kremlin denies trying to discredit hillary clinton during the campaign by publishing hacked emails. our correspondent laura bicker reports from washington. russia stands accused of trying to help donald trump become president. moscow had been warned but now it's being punished for interfering in us elections. america's top intelligence agencies believe a cyber attack on the e—mails of hillary clinton's closest aides was orchestrated by the highest levels of russian government. but mr trump has always questioned the evidence. once they hack, if you don't catch them in the act, you're not gonna catch them.
you don't know if it is russia or china or somebody, it could be somebody sitting in a bed some place. but the cia and fbi both agree — the hackers, they say, were russian, and now mr trump is softening his stance. in a statement, he said... president obama said all americans should be alarmed. he's ordered that 35 officials are expelled. they're believed to have close links with russian intelligence. they have just 72 hours to leave the country. and he's closing two russian compounds, one in new york and the other in maryland. white house officials said russia had to pay a price for what they described as an extraordinary attack on us democratic systems. president obama warned that further action is to come at a time of his choosing.
the lead—up to this row is both complicated and contentious, so let's have a look at the details. in the run—up to the presidential election, more than 19,000 emails from key figures in the democratic party were leaked and published by the website wikileaks. then in october us security officials formally accused russia of cyber attacks against political organisations in an attempt to "influence the us election". after donald trump won in november, the kremlin accused the obama administration of doing everything it could to damage relations for the incoming president. earlier this month, a report by the cia went further — it suggested russian hackers acted covertly to boost donald trump's campaign. russia denied the allegations, while mr trump's team dismissed the report. mr obama said there would be consequences. and now — as we've been hearing — 35 russian diplomats have been expelled from the us, with russia promising to retaliate. earlier our correspondent
oleg boldyrev explained how the kremlin has always denied the allegations because of a lack of evidence. for the past few years russia has gained a very good experience of denying stuff which has not been proven documentally and put on the table. forfour orfive months russia has been saying, show us the proof, there is no proof, there is no fingerprints. president putin repeated this a week ago talking to press in moscow that this is just some talk which is not backed up. even in the case of the war in ukraine, russians were managing to deflect this, saying there is no proof of russian involvement. whether anybody believed that outside of russia is another case but for the russian politics machine it goes on this premise that nothing has been shown so russia is able to feed its angry rhetoric by repeating just this. it says once again, and it has said
so for the past 12 hours after the sanctions were announced, that this was a totally groundless response by an obama administration which has a bias and a grudge against putin and russian politics as a whole. a nationwide ceasefire has come into force in syria between the government of president assad and many rebel factions. fighting is said to have stopped in much of the country, but there have been reports of some clashes. it's early in government warplanes have carried out at least 16 air raids in one area according to the syrian observatory for human rights. a number of rebel organisations are excluded from the truce, including the group called islamic state. our correspondent lina sinjab spoke to me a little earlierfrom beirut and said the ceasefire appeared to be holding, but with
a few local exceptions. it is holding nationwide but there are reports of isolated sporadic shooting, especially in the suburbs of damascus, in the area called wadi barada. we have been hearing from activists and the syrian observatory for human rights that there were a couple of air strikes followed by shooting between different sides. we can't call the ceasefire as collapsed after this incident, it is an isolated case, and people are hoping that this time the ceasefire will hold and continue, although president vladimir putin said himself when announcing the deal that it would be fragile. there are plans for peace talks next month for a political settlement for the conflict in kazakhstan, followed by un—brokered talks in geneva soon after that. we are watching the situation and will continue watching
the ceasefire and how it will go over the hours and days in the hope that it will keep holding. 17 people have been injured, after a coach veered off a motorway slip road and overturned in heavy fog in oxfordshire. the vehicle, operated by the oxford bus company, came off the mao slip road near thame. our correspondent has spent the morning at the crash scene. a lot of work is going on here at the moment, there is a recovery truck to the front of the coach which will take it away from the scene shortly. you can probably make outjust how mangled it is when it flipped over onto its side in the early hours of this morning. 17 people taken to hospital, 16 of them passengers, all adults, and also the driver. let's speak to a sergeant from thames valley police.
tell us a bit about the scene and what your officers faced when they got here. about three o'clock this morning our officers will have attended along with fire and ambulance services to this coach on its side and down the ditch where you can see a gentleman working behind us. it was quite a chaotic scene, the services were working together to get people out safely. how were the passengers when the emergency services got here? obviously a shocking incident. it would have been a chaotic scene, nobody has life—threatening injuries and everybody was taken to the john radcliffe hospital for treatment. what are your lines of enquiry at the moment? the investigation is ongoing but what are your thoughts as to what could have gone wrong? firstly, the bus wasn't due to leave at thisjunction, it should have left at junction eight. secondly, we have reports of very dense fog and difficult driving conditions in the early hours of the morning. what is your message to people?
the fog is still here. what do you want to get across to people? it is foggy and very icy, i have just walked over the motorway bridge and you can see people driving without their lights. please take more time over your journey, put your lights on and please be safe out there. thank you very much. that is the latest here from the scene. a quick word about the driver. he was a 54—year—old man, a very experienced coach driver, and he worked overnight shifts for a number of years. investigation is continuing this lunchtime. learner drivers are to be allowed on motorways for the first time under new government plans to improve road safety. the department of transport is launching a seven—week consultation on the proposed changes from today. it says the idea is designed to improve awareness and experience for new road users. sangita myska reports. the proposed changes to both driver
and motorcyclist training, says the government, would improve safety on britain's roads. for drivers, changes would mean that competent learners would be able to have lessons on motorways with an approved driving instructor in a dual—controlled car. the biggest proposed changes are reserved for motorcyclists. the compulsory basic—training course, which allows them to ride unaccompanied on roads, would be updated. motorcycle training would also move more online, with novice riders having to take a theory test, and those holding a provisional motorcycle licence would also have their cbt certificates revoked if they get more than six penalty points. the motoring organisation the rac have welcomed the proposals, saying britain's roads are already amongst the safest in the world, and that changes are needed to help modernise driver and motorcycle training. sangita myska, bbc news. the eye—catcher is the idea of
putting learner drivers on motorways. what is your reaction to that? it is something villegas have called for for that? it is something villegas have called forfor a long that? it is something villegas have called for for a long time. that? it is something villegas have called forfor a long time. we now have smart motorways and it is important that new drivers learn how to interact on the motorway. this will not be compulsory, there will be people who don't want to drive on motorways and people who don't live near them. we very supportive of the call for motorway learning today. what about drivers who have passed their test, will they feel that this makes motorways a bit less safe? that is one of the great unknowns. driving town there is that respect that we were all learners once and that we were all learners once and that that reciprocal relationship of giving them a bit of space and interactivity with the road is all well and good. we are calling for
that for all experienced motorists. driving is a skill, it is something you learn throughout your life. so the idea that there should be a number of hours, or the more hours the better, is something you recommend, although it is not mandatory? that is correct, this is trying to stop people who turned 17 who have their test either and 17th birthday or a couple of days after. it is calling for drivers to build up it is calling for drivers to build upa lot it is calling for drivers to build up a lot of time to get proper experience before they put forward for a test. ultimately we want to put people forward who are ready for their test rather than chancing it because they have had a lot of time driving on private land with mum and dad. the difficulty is that anybody who has had children going through this process, driving lessons are so expensive, we are talking about extra hours and dual control cars. it will be an expensive process, this experience thing. the issue
about the hours at the moment is still very early. it looks like it will be a log that will be both approved driving extractors as well as mum and dad or any other qualified driver who has passed their test. —— driving instructors. does the aa have a policy on how roads can be made safer still? 71% of roads can be made safer still? 7196 of drivers according to our research think that roads have got more dangerous in recent years, for a number of reasons, people undertaking, holding the middle lane and not moving in, a lot of things are changing and of course we want to make roads more safe and improve driving instruction. anybody who drives on the motorway recognises everything you have described and will say there are not nearly enough police in comparison with just a few yea rs police in comparison with just a few years ago who are out on the roads
policing these things. that is something the government has to look at, we need more police who could be available to find these kinds of issues. certainly what we have found issues. certainly what we have found is that people who stay in the middle lane, that is a problem and it seems to be growing in its severity, according to what drivers tell us, so that needs to be looked at that is a wider policing issue. from a learning point of view, that can be taught from the first lesson. of course they will not be straight onto the motorway, they will have progressed through a period of driver lessons, so they won't be fresh in the car, they will have some experience and quite possibly they will have been driving on fast lane dual carriageway is as well. we have had a clear lesson this morning on driving in bad weather, fog in the west of, and i wonder whether you think in the way whether there should be lessons and driving in bad
weather, because a lot of drivers will pass that test without having driven in snow or fog. people who don't feel confident can call on us, we offer driving courses. in scandinavian countries they offer courses on inclement conditions, so if that is needed we could offer that. the headlines on bbc news... russia's foreign minister calls on president putin to expel 35 us diplomats, in retaliation for a similar move by washington. the syria ceasefire between the government and rebel groups appears largely to be holding, despite reports of isolated clashes. drivers are told to take care in fog and freezing conditions, as a coach overturns on the mao in oxfordshire, injuring 17 people. sport now and for a full round up from the bbc sport centre. swa nsea
swansea city's search for a manager continues today. one favourite is gary rau, who has been out of the game since being sacked by birmingham. that was after he led them to the verge of the play—offs, he was fired to make way for gianfranco zola. the second man is paul clement, currently assistant manager at bayern munich. he is believed to have impressed the swansea board in the autumn before bradley took over. swa nsea the autumn before bradley took over. swansea are currently second from bottom in the premier league. when middlesbrough play manchester united tomorrow it will be their first —— the first return to old trafford for fabiola da silva. he and his brother played under sir alex ferguson, and the brother spoke to our reporter about what kind of reception he might expect. he is hard, i try not to think in my head
about how it will be. there are thousand things in my head, like how it will be, how they will react, how my reaction will be, but it might be nice. i think it will be strange if you because you have to decide who to support! i love manchester united and all of the supporters but i have to support my brother in this time. to be absolutely clear, you will be supporting middlesbrough? well, yeah! i will be supporting my brother so i want him to win so i think i will be supporting middlesbrough! brotherly loyalty. you can see more of that interview and football focus on bbc one tomorrow. world player of the year cristiano ronaldo has turned down £85 million a year to leave real madrid for an
unnamed chinese club, according to his agent. the agent said the club we re his agent. the agent said the club were also willing to pay a transfer of £150 million, almost tripling the world record. the agent said that real madrid is his life and he isn't interested in any move. australia have beaten pakistan by an innings and 18 runs. south africa have gone 1—o innings and 18 runs. south africa have gone 1—0 up against sri lanka, chasing a target of 100 and —— of a88. the victory was by 206 runs. opposition parties at stormont are renewing their calls for arlene foster to resign after an overspend
in renewable energy that she oversaw. she is in the firing line because she was the stormont enterprise minister at the time of this widely discredited green energy scheme back in 2012. it was called renewable heat incentive, encouraging people to switch to renewable fuels, but it paid out more insensitive is —— in incentives than the amount spent on the fuel, leading to a huge overspend, expected to run to £a9o million over the next 20 years. before christmas arlene foster faced a vote of no confidence, which she survived, but there has been no letup in criticism from opposition parties. on christmas eve a newspaper reported that arlene foster, when she was enterprise minister three years ago, the department of enterprise was running this scheme, today the
department of the economy has released the correspondence. this is a letter from arlene foster to bank chiefs in 2013 in which she said that she wanted to encourage banks to look favourably on approaches from businesses who are seeking finance to install renewables. she said government support was reliable, long—term and offered a good return on investment. the leader of the biggest opposition party, mike nesbitt of the ulster unionists, said this shows that arlene foster was across every detail of the scheme and he has repeated his call for her to resign. the sdlp have said she should stand aside pending a public enquiry. throughout this a fair —— this affair she has made clear she is going nowhere. stormont have released a statement saying that you have to see this letter in context, at the time she wrote the letter to
the banks the optic the scheme was very —— the uptake on the scheme was very —— the uptake on the scheme was very slow and she was encouraging people to take it up. another development in this story, this has put power—sharing between the dup and sinn fein under strain. i am sure we will see more on this in the new year. more now on the story that the russian foreign ministry has announced it intends to expel thirty—five american diplomats from the country. the measure is in response to president obama's decision to kick out 35 diplomats because of allegations that russia interfered in the american presidential election. with me is sir tony brenton, a former british ambassador to russia between 200a and 2008. i suspect you have a sense of deja vu. i suspect you have a sense of deja vu. absolutely, when i was an ambassador we throughout the plus because of the litvinenko affair.
for the diplomats themselves it is quite something. it is a major shock in their lives, it disrupts careers, families, schooling, all of that. we can be slightly glib about it being a ritual but it has more serious implications. our hope at the time of the litvinenko affair was that it was a disincentive for the russians doing something similar and the americans will have a similar hope with regard to stopping russians publicising the products of their hacks. everybody hacks. you say that but there was a lot of our knees and anger in the united states that the russians should be hacking during a presidential election. they see that as beyond the pale. let's not overstate this. i think the ordinary american expects his spy agencies to
hack into russian material and would not be surprised if the russians and private corporations, the chinese, do this as well, it is part of the world we live in. there is anger in washington about this apparent interference in their electoral process and that is interesting, there was an argument with trump saying they didn't really. if you look back at the history of what happened, when the russians started their operation, it was against both republicans and democrats, they were looking for dirt on the electoral process. they wouldn't have taken sides? know, and everybody expected hillary clinton to win so there was no point, trump was a rank outsider. they don't like hillary clinton, she has been very tough about what she has been very tough about what she has said about russia, and so in a very russian way they decided that they would show this woman that they would not be rolled over by putting this stuff out. i doubt they
expected to affect the result of the election, there is doubt in fact that they did, but it played into a series of accusations about trump which he has had to deny because it's sort of weakens his electoral mandate and which he is now beginning to adjust to, he is seeing the intelligence agencies in a few days he has to work with them. he is not stupid, he wants to beyond this to work closely with the intelligence agencies. a tit-for-tat expulsion at the time of a new american president, is that something you would have expected at this point? it is interesting how the russians have done it. normally they say, ok, 35 diplomats out. at this time sergei lavrov has said he has put a proposal to putin for these expulsions. it is choreographed and gives routing the opportunity to say, there is a new
president arriving, i will smooth his arrival by postponing the action or something. it will be interesting to see what happens next. vladimir putin will look back at 2016 with some pleasure in the way it has ended for him. he has gotten himself into some dangerous situations, notably in syria, where the beginning of the russian intervention, or western commentators were saying this will be disastrous to russia, and they are now in a position of peacemaker, so it has worked out well there. the hacking has not worked out well because one of trump's themes is that russia and the west need to cooperate more closely on isis. that cooperation will depend crucially on cooperation will depend crucially on cooperation between intelligence agencies and the hacking makes it harderfor intelligence agencies and the hacking makes it harder for intelligence agencies to work together. are we back in and near other cold war? we hearfrom american diplomats that they are
co nsta ntly american diplomats that they are constantly followed american diplomats that they are co nsta ntly followed a nd american diplomats that they are constantly followed and harassed. did that happen to british diplomats? yes, i was harassed. there was this organisation called nashl there was this organisation called nashi, the local equivalent of the hitler youth, who turned up at meetings and shouted at me and is trailed me around town in a conspicuously unmarked car. it was unpleasant for my family, but this is the way that the russians treat a lot of foreign diplomats. is the way that the russians treat a lot of foreign diplomatslj is the way that the russians treat a lot of foreign diplomats. i am just seeing from reuters that putin says russia will not expel anybody in response to american sanctions, exactly what you said he would do. interesting. the thing that will be at the top of putin's mind is how to establish a good working relationship with trump, and this is a part of preparing for that. relationship with trump, and this is a part of preparing for thatm relationship with trump, and this is a part of preparing for that. it is saying that putin says he sees american sanctions as another step
to undermine relations. a new relation starting from a very low point. he wants to present himself as, iwant point. he wants to present himself as, i want a good russian ship, i am the peacemaker in syria, we all hate isas, he is trying to build a good relationship with trump. —— i want a good relationship. let's not kid ourselves, british politicians haven't really got the message, we we re haven't really got the message, we were ina haven't really got the message, we were in a very extraordinarily dangerous situation with regard to russia and america, when both sides' generals were talking about shooting down the other side's planes. does this mean that putin will go on strengthening his position, which is
another threat? he is not under threat, he has the support of 75% of the russian people. there is a false impression in the west that our problem is president putin. our problem is president putin. our problem is president putin. our problem is russia. he speaks for russia. when he says, ukraine matters to us and we will not let it slide away, that is not putin, that is putin, the security sector and all of russia. when he says, crimea is ours, we may view that is com pletely is ours, we may view that is completely illegal and unacceptable, but all of russia said, great, it is ours. let's go back to the harassment of diplomats. is there a particular moment you remember thinking, i wish they would stop this? was there something that triggered a bit of anger in new? lots really. i went out to a sunday afternoon bridge party, it was relaxed and friendly, i came out when i got into the car, and there they are, trailing you, standing outside the house, shouting slogans, and it wears you down. one of them
sat beside me on a plane and i was stuck with him for two ours. did he shout or not? ! i emptied cat food down ——i shout or not? ! i emptied cat food down —— i went to buy cat food and they followed me and these bewildering supermarket assistants we re bewildering supermarket assistants were wondering what these goons were doing following me around. it is depressing and annoying, the russians have got a habit of doing it to diplomats that they don't like. they have been doing it to the americans are a lot recently and thatis americans are a lot recently and that is part of the background to the action the americans have taken. thank you very much for coming in. national parks in england have lost a quarter of their government funding in the past five years, according to research by the press association. campaigners warn it could threaten the areas for future generations, but the government says their budgets are protected until 2020. clare fallon reports. with stunning scenery and rare wildlife, 19 million people visit them every year, but england's national parks have had their funding cut in recent times, down by a quarter since 2010.
areas loved by many and described by the government as national treasures simply aren't getting the cash they used to. figures show the grants given to nine out of ten national parks reduced by more than £10 million overfive years. with inflation factored in, that's a real—terms cut of up to ao%. in a statement, the department for environment, food and rural affairs says: there are efforts to bring in more money by bringing in more visitors. there is a government plan for encouraging school trips and overseas tourists. campaigners, though, point to information centres closing,