NATO expels 8 Russians for spying

North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) has expelled eight Russian diplomats it says have been working secretly as intelligence officers.

The military alliance has also halved the size of Moscow’s mission working at its Brussels headquarters to 10.

It is the first time NATO has taken such action against Moscow since it expelled seven Russian diplomats from the mission in the wake of the 2018 Salisbury spy poisonings.

Russian officials accused the West of using Moscow as a “bogeyman”.

“The collective West is continuing its policy of diplomatic confrontation with Russia,” said Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko.

“After the dramatic end of the Afghan era, how can they get by without the bogeyman of the ‘Russian threat’? – They can’t.”

Sky News reported that the expulsions came “in response to suspected malign Russian activities, including killings and espionage”.

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

The latest move means the number of people Russia can accredit at the organisation will be halved from 20 at the end of the month.

“This decision is not linked to any particular event, but we have seen… an increase in Russian malign activity, and therefore we need to be vigilant,” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said.

A NATO official earlier said the men were “undeclared Russian intelligence officers”.

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 would further strain relations.

Mr Slutsky told the Interfax news agency Moscow could respond in retaliation, though he did not elaborate on his comments.

In 2018, NATO expelled Russian diplomats in response to a nerve agent attack in the city of Salisbury in the UK. It also reduced the size of Russia’s mission from 30 to 20.

NATO is expelling seven Russian diplomats in response to a nerve agent attack in the UK.

The international security organisation’s chief said the move would send a message to Russia that there are “costs and consequences” for its behaviour.

Twenty-six countries have expelled Russian envoys in the past two days, in solidarity with the UK.

They all believe Russia was behind the poisoning of two people in Salisbury. -BBC

Show More
Back to top button