Half Russia’s mission to NATO expelled over spying accusations

Eight members of Russia’s mission to NATO, accused of secretly working as intelligence officers, thus halving the size of Moscow’s in the alliance's Brussels headquarters.

“We can confirm that we have withdrawn the accreditation of eight members of the Russian mission to NATO, who were undeclared Russian intelligence officers,” said an official, speaking under condition of anonymity.

NATO has also reduced the maximum number of positions that Russia can accredit people for at the organisation from 20 down to 10, the official said. No immediate explanation was given for the decision, which will take effect at the end of the month.

Relations between Nato and Russia have been increasingly strained since Moscow illegally annexed Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula in 2014.

“NATO’s policy towards Russia remains consistent. We have strengthened our deterrence and defence in response to Russia’s aggressive actions, while at the same time we remain open for a meaningful dialogue,” the official said.

Leonid Slutsky, the chair of the foreign affairs committee in the lower house of the Russian parliament, dismissed the accusations against the diplomats as baseless and warned that Nato’s move will further strain relations.

Slutsky also told the Interfax news agency that Moscow could respond with “asymmetric” retaliatory measures, but he did not elaborate on what they may be.

Image: By U.S. Department of State from United States - Secretary Pompeo Departs Brussels After NATO Summit, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/...

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