Russia in its fresh move has stopped the activities of its diplomatic mission to NATO and will close the offices in Moscow in a response to NATO’s expulsion of eight Russians over the alleged spying.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Monday announced the moves are set to plunge relations between Moscow and the transatlantic security body to new depths when they take effect at the start of next month.
Lavrov said, “Following certain measures taken by NATO, the basic conditions for common work no longer exist.”
He said, “In response to NATO’s activities, we suspend the work of our permanent mission to NATO, including the work of the chief military representative, starting from November 1, or maybe it will take a couple more days.”
Lavrov also announced that NATO’s military activities and information offices in Moscow would be closed, adding that accreditations would be recalled at the beginning of November.
He said that any negotiations between the Western alliance and Moscow could be done via the Russian embassy in Belgium.
NATO said that it had taken note of Lavrov’s comments but had not received any official communication on the issues yet.
Earlier this month, NATO expelled eight members of Russia’s mission to the alliance with the verdict that they were “undeclared Russian intelligence officers”. It also halved the number of positions that Russia can accredit to the alliance, to 10.
Moscow said at the time that the expulsions undermined hopes that relations with the United States-led alliance could normalize.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg meanwhile said the expulsions were not linked to a particular event, but claimed the eight individuals’ activities were not in line with their accreditations.
He said NATO needed to be vigilant in the face of “malign” Russian activity and described relations with Moscow as at their lowest point since the end of the Cold War.
Stoltenberg cited Russia’s military build-up along Ukraine’s border and added that what he said were violations of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty as evidence of “aggressive actions”.
Russia is not a NATO member but has long had an observer mission to the alliance as part of a two-decade-old NATO-Russia Council meant to promote cooperation in common security areas.