NATO bans spying on 8 Russian mission members

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Brussels (AFP)

NATO announced Wednesday that it had withdrawn their accreditation from eight members of the Russian mission to the Alliance, calling them “undeclared Russian intelligence officers”, that is to say spies.

A NATO official said that “we can also confirm that we have reduced the number of positions the Russian Federation can accredit to NATO to 10” from 20 previously.

“We can confirm that we have withdrawn the accreditation of 8 members of the Russian mission to NATO, who were undeclared Russian intelligence officers,” the official told AFP, confirming information reported for the first time by the British Sky News.

“NATO’s policy towards Russia remains consistent. We have stepped up our deterrence and defense in response to Russia’s aggressive actions, while remaining open to constructive dialogue,” said the official, who declined to comment. to be named.

The decision to halve the Russian mission will come into effect at the end of the month and has reportedly been approved by all 30 NATO member countries.

Russia has long had an observer mission to NATO as part of a two-decade NATO-Russia Council to promote cooperation in common security areas, but it is not a member of the Russian Federation. ‘United States-led Alliance.

The Russian mission has already been reduced once, when seven of its members were ejected following the 2018 poisoning by the nerve agent Novichok on a former Russian double agent, Sergei Skripal, and his daughter in Britain . Requests for accreditation from three other Russian diplomats were refused.

The NATO-Russia Council has barely functioned amid tensions fueled by Russia’s annexation of the Crimean Peninsula by Russia in 2014, continued support for pro-Moscow separatists in Ukraine and developments in weapons, including missiles.

US President Joe Biden has taken a much firmer tone against Russian President Vladimir Putin than his predecessor Donald Trump.

Another NATO official told AFP that the NATO-Russia Council “remains an important platform for dialogue” and said that a proposal early last year to hold another meeting of the forum “is vaild”.

“The ball is in Russia’s court,” the official said.

Sky News reported that the NATO decision came after information came to light in April about deadly explosions at a Czech ammunition depot in 2014 which Prague said involved two Russian spies – identified as allegedly involved in the poisoning of Skripal.

This incident between the Czech Republic and Russia led to the mutual expulsion of dozens of European and Russian diplomats and other embassy staff.

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