NATO expels 8 Russian intelligence agents

NATO on Wednesday expelled eight members of the Russian mission to the military alliance, alleging they were working clandestinely as intelligence agents, and halved the number of members of the Moscow team authorized to work at its headquarters.

“We can confirm that we have withdrawn the accreditation of eight members of the Russian Mission to NATO, who were undeclared Russian intelligence agents”, said a NATO official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

NATO also reduced the number of accreditations Russia can apply for from 20 to 10, the official said. There was no immediate explanation for the decision, which will take effect at the end of the month.

Relations between NATO and Russia have deteriorated since Moscow annexed the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea in 2014. They are at loggerheads over Russian nuclear missile development, incursions into NATO airspace and the passage of fighter jets near allied ships.

Official talks between the two have been scarce in recent years.

“NATO’s policy toward Russia remains consistent. We have strengthened our deterrence and defense in response to Russia’s aggressive actions, while remaining open to serious dialogue,” the official said.

The main forum for dialogue, the NATO-Russia Council, is stalled.

NATO proposed a NATO-Russia Council meeting more than 18 months ago, and the proposal is still on hold, the official said. The ball is in Russia’s court.

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