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Russia suspends mission to NATO

MOSCOW (TASS): Russia has suspended the work of its permanent mission to NATO since the beginning of November after the decision of the North Atlantic Alliance to revoke the accreditation of eight employees of the Russian permanent mission. This was announced on Monday at a press conference by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, answering a question from TASS.

“As a result of purposeful steps on the part of NATO, we have no proper conditions for elementary diplomatic activity, and in response to NATO’s actions, we suspend the work of our permanent mission to NATO, including the work of the chief military representative, probably from November 1, or maybe this will take a few more days,” he said.

“Just today we announ-ced such [retaliatory] steps. The NATO International Secretariat has already been notified,” Lavrov added.

The activities of the NATO Military Liaison Mission in Moscow will also be suspended, and the accreditation of its employees will be revoked from November 1.

“In response to NATO’s actions <…> we suspend the activities of the NATO Military Liaison Mission in Moscow, the accreditation of its employees is revoked from November 1 this year,” Lavrov said.

In addition, the activities of the NATO Information Office in Moscow, which was established at the Embassy of the Kingdom of Belgium, are being terminated, Lavrov said. “If NATO members have any urgent matters, they can turn to our ambassador to Belgium on these issues,” the minister added.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov stated that Moscow will not continue to pretend that any changes in relations with NATO are possible in the future.

“NATO is not interested in any equal dialogue, in any joint work. If this is so, then we do not see a great need to continue to pretend that any changes are possible in the foreseeable futu-re, because NATO has alre-ady declared the impossib-ility of such changes”, – he said. “As a result of purposeful steps on the part of NATO, we have no conditions for elementary diplomatic activity,” Lavrov added.

According to Foreign M-inistry statement, it stated that NATO’s line towards Moscow is becoming more and more aggressive, the R-ussian Foreign Ministry sa-id on Monday, commenting on NATO’s actions to rev-oke accreditation from the staff of the Russian permanent mission to the alliance and Russia’s retaliatory steps.

“The line of the alliance towards our country is bec-oming more and more agg-ressive. The” Russian threat “is being inflated, among other things, with the aim of strengthening the internal unity of the alliance, to create the appearance of its” relevance” in modern geopolitical conditions,” the Foreign Ministry said.

In connection with NA-TO’s “unfriendly actions”, Moscow is suspending the work of Russia’s permanent mission to NATO, including the chief military representative, and is shutting down the NATO information center in Moscow, as well as taking a number of other steps.

NATO took note of the words of Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov about the mutual closure of diplomatic missions, but has not yet received official notifications from the Russian Federation.

“We took note of Minister Lavrov’s statements to the media, but we have not yet received official notifications on the issues raised,” the alliance press service said in response to a TASS request to comment on the statement by the Russian Foreign Minister on the closure of Russia’s permanent mission to NATO on November 1 in Brussels and the NATO Information Office and the NATO Military Liaison Mission in Moscow.

The main thing that is known about the situation.

NATO’s decision and Russia’s response

On October 6, the North Atlantic Alliance announced a reduction in the composition of the Russian permanent mission to NATO from 20 to 10 people: eight diplomats had their accreditation revoked, and two more vacancies were abolished. The Russians were given a deadline until the end of October to leave Brussels.

NATO explained its decision by the fact that the diplomats deprived of their accreditation, in the alliance’s opinion, are intelligence officers, the status of which Moscow did not notify. Alliance Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg later said that the decision “is not associated with any specific events.”

Lavrov on October 18 announced the reciprocal steps of the Russian side: from November 1, Russia’s permanent mission to NATO and the organization’s mission in Moscow will be closed. He specified that the process could take “several more days,” but stressed that the Russian Federation no longer sees the need to “continue to pretend that some changes [in relations with the alliance] are possible in the foreseeable future.”

Who leaves and what remains

The NATO Military Liaison Mission, whose tasks include interaction with the RF Ministry of Defense, has 13 employees, including one civilian. It is headed by Major General Laszlo Makk from Hungary.

There is only one foreigner on the staff of the Information Bureau, which is supposed to promote “understanding by the wider Russian public of relations between Russia and NATO,” an employee of the International Staff of the North Atlantic Alliance. The rest are Russians.

Communication between Russia and NATO will now be maintained through the Russian ambassador to Belgium (until 2003, this post was combined with that of a permanent representative). The Russian Foreign Ministry also explained that similar functions can be performed by one of the ambassadors of the organization’s member countries in Moscow “at the discretion of the alliance.”

Extreme step

The closure of the permanent mission to NATO is a measure that Moscow has not resorted to in any of the previous periods of cooling of relations with the West in recent history.

At the same time, since January 2018, the mission has been working without a permanent representative – since the moment when Alexander Grushko left this post, who now holds the post of Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs. The duties of the head of the representative office were performed by Deputy Permanent Representative Yuri Gorlach.

In addition, the alliance has repeatedly expelled Russian diplomats from Brussels – the first such incident occurred in the spring of 2009. In the spring of 2018, after the scandal surrounding the Skripals case, NATO decided to reduce the composition of the Russian permanent mission from 30 to 20 people.

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