Russia will suspend its mission to NATO over expelled envoys, says foreign minister

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By Euronews  with AP, AFP
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov speaks during a press conference.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov speaks during a press conference.   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic   -  

Russia’s foreign minister announced on Monday that the country is suspending its representative mission to NATO.

Sergey Lavrov said that NATO’s military liaison and information offices in Moscow would be closed in November.

The decision comes just days after the organisation expelled eight Russian envoys on charges of espionage.

Lavrov added that Russia's decision came in response to NATO's "deliberate" move to halve the team at its Moscow headquarters.

"We have practically no conditions for elementary diplomatic work," the foreign minister told reporters.

"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 November 1, or it may take several more days."

Lavrov added that contact between NATO and Moscow could be done through the Russian embassy in Belgium.

NATO said they "take note" of Lavrov's remarks but that they had not received any official communication on the matter.

NATO has said that the eight members of Russia’s mission to the military alliance were secretly working as intelligence officers.

But Moscow has hit back at the move, stating that NATO is "not interested in an equal dialogue and joint work to deescalate military-political tensions".

The alliance’s line towards our country is becoming more and more aggressive," the foreign ministry said in a separate statement.

"The ‘Russian threat’ is inflated in order to strengthen the internal unity of the alliance, to create the appearance of its ‘relevance’ in modern geopolitical conditions."

NATO suspended practical cooperation with Russia in 2014 after it annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula, but has kept channels open for high-level meetings and for military-to-military cooperation.

Russia and NATO also have been at odds over Moscow’s nuclear missile development, and aerial intrusions into NATO airspace, with official talks between them have been limited in recent years.

Moscow has also been angered by NATO's aims to expand into Ukraine and Georgia.

Jamie Shea, former Deputy Assistant Secretary-General of NATO, told Euronews that Russia's decision was "not a dramatic move."

"After NATO announced last week that it was expelling eight Russian diplomats from the missions ... I expected Sergei Lavrov to retaliate."

"But this is not the end of the diplomatic or military relationship as such," Shea added.

Click on the player above to watch the full interview.