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NATO Expels Eight Members Of Russian Mission

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The Atlantic Alliance accused the eight Russian observers of being undeclared Russian intelligence officers. The military alliance has also halved the size of Moscow’s mission working at its Brussels headquarters to 10.

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) announced Wednesday the expulsion of eight members of the Russian mission in Brussels on the grounds of espionage, according to information reported by the U.S. Agency “Associated Press”, citing an official of the military alliance on condition of anonymity. 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 can 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”.

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.

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