Russia suspends NATO mission after the alliance booted alleged spies

Russia suspends NATO mission after the alliance booted alleged spies
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Sergey Lavrov
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov speaks during a joint press conference with his Portuguese counterpart following their talks in Moscow on May 31, 2021. Pavel Golovkin/AFP via Getty Images
  • Russia is suspending its mission to NATO in Brussels.

  • Russia's top diplomat said this was in response to NATO expelling eight Russians from the mission.

  • NATO alleged that the eight Russians were secretly working as spies.

Russia's top diplomat on Monday announced that Moscow is suspending its mission to NATO in Brussels, a response to the alliance kicking out eight Russians it accused of secretly working as spies earlier this month.

"As a result of NATO's deliberate moves, we have practically no conditions for elementary diplomatic work and in response to NATO's actions we suspend the work of our permanent mission to NATO, including the work of the chief military envoy, probably from Nov. 1. Or it may take several more days," Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said, per the TASS news agency.

NATO is not interested in "equal dialogue nor in any joint work," Lavrov said.

Lavrov also said that Russia is suspending the NATO military liaison mission in Moscow.

"We have taken note of the decision by Russia to suspend the work of its diplomatic mission to NATO, and of NATO's Military Liaison Mission in Moscow, and to close down NATO's Information Mission in Moscow. We regret these steps. 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 to dialogue, including through the NATO-Russia Council," NATO spokesperson Oana Lungescu said in a statement provided to Insider.

This announcement from Russia came as Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin set off on European trip, including visits to Georgia, Ukraine, and Romania.

Austin is "traveling to Europe to reassure allies and partners of America's commitment to their sovereignty in the face of Russian aggression," the Pentagon said in a statement. The Pentagon chief is also set to attend a NATO defense ministerial meeting in Brussels at the end of the trip

Both Georgia and Ukraine have sought to join NATO, of which Romania is already a member. Russian President Vladimir Putin has warned NATO against pursuing closer ties with Georgia and Ukraine.

Russian forces invaded Georgia during a brief war in 2008 and continue to occupy two disputed territories in the region: South Ossetia and Abkhazia. A majority of the international community recognizes these territories as part of Georgia.

Ukraine is engaged in an ongoing war with Kremlin-backed separatists in the eastern Donbass region. The Ukraine conflict began in 2014, the same year that Putin unilaterally annexed Crimea. Earlier this year, Russia prompted fears of an invasion as it amassed tens of thousands of troops along the Ukrainian border. The troops were ultimately withdrawn.

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