Russia shuts mission to NATO in spy row retaliation

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Monday that his country is suspending its mission to NATO. Lavrov said the move was a response to the expulsion of eight Russian staff at the military alliance’s mission last week. NATO said the individuals expelled were in fact “undeclared Russian intelligence officers.” The expulsions meant that half of the Moscow team were prohibited from working at NATO’s Brussels headquarters. Lavrov, who complained that “NATO is neither interested in an equal dialogue nor in cooperation,” said staff at Russia’s NATO military mission in Moscow would also be stripped of their accreditation from November 1. If needed, he said, NATO could interact with Russia via its embassy in Brussels, Russian news agencies reported. In response to the Monday announcement, a NATO spokesperson said: “We have taken note of Minister Lavrov’s comments to the media, however, we have not received any official communication on the issues he raised. German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas told DW that Russia’s decision to shutter its NATO mission make relations with Moscow more difficult. “We must acknowledge more and more that Russia no longer seems to be [willing to cooperate],” said Maas, who called the decision “more than just regrettable … It will seriously damage the relationship.”