Russia shuts down NATO mission in Moscow following espionage allegations

NATO headquarters

THE MILITARY LIAISON MISSION of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) to Moscow is to be closed, in retaliation to the expulsion of several Russian diplomats from Belgium for alleged espionage earlier this month. The claims of espionage were made by NATO against members of staff of the Russian permanent mission to the military alliance. The mission was established in 1997 as a “mechanism of consultation, cooperation, joint decision-making and joint action […] between NATO and Russia”. At its height it was staffed by as many as 20 Russian diplomatic personnel, who were stationed in the Belgian capital Brussels.

But on Wednesday, October 6, the Western military alliance announced the expulsion of eight members of staff of the Russian military liaison mission. According to a NATO source, the eight diplomats were in reality undeclared intelligence officers operating in Brussels under official cover. The eight Russians had their diplomatic accreditations revoked and were ordered to leave Belgium by October 31. In addition to expelling the eight diplomats, NATO also eliminated two further positions at the Russian mission, which had been scheduled to be filled later this year. This effectively halved the size of the Russian mission from 20 to 10 diplomats.

Speaking in Moscow on Monday, Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergei Lavrov said Moscow would be “suspending the activity of the NATO military liaison mission in Moscow and […] recalling the accreditation of its staff”. He added that the move was in retaliation to NATO’s expulsion of 10 Russian diplomats from Brussels earlier this month. When asked how Moscow would communicate with NATO from now on, Lavrov responded: “If NATO has some urgent matters, it may contact our ambassador in Belgium on these issues”.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 19 October 2021 | Permalink

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