Why is Russia suspending its mission to Nato?

Announcement comes after Nato expelled members of Moscow delegation over allegations of spying

Russia has suspended its mission to Nato and closed the alliance's offices in Moscow.

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov announced the moves on Monday after the military alliance expelled several members of Moscow's delegation over allegations of spying.

Moscow is expected to suspend the work of its official mission to Nato in Brussels, including that of its military representative, from around November 1, he said.

It will also shut down the alliance's liaison mission in the Belgian embassy in Moscow, which was set up in 2002, and the Nato information office, which was established in 2001 to improve understanding between Nato and Russia.

Why has Russia ended the mission?

The announcement comes as relations between Russia and the western military bloc plumb new depths, frustrating years of efforts to improve ties after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

Earlier this month, the military alliance stripped eight members of Russia's mission of their accreditation, with Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg calling them "undeclared Russian intelligence officers".

Meetings of a Nato-Russia council have not been held since 2019 due to heightened tension.

Russia's relationship with the West has been on a downward spiral since Moscow's 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine and its support for pro-Russian separatists in the country's east.

Western nations have imposed a series of sanctions on Russia in recent years over Ukraine, alleged election interference, cyber attacks and the poisoning of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny.

Moscow, in turn, has accused the West of interfering in its elections and of supporting anti-Kremlin forces in countries such as Ukraine and Georgia, which Russia considers part of its traditional sphere of influence.

What did Sergey Lavrov say?

"Following certain measures taken by Nato, the basic conditions for common work no longer exist," Mr Lavrov told reporters in Moscow. "Nato has already greatly reduced its contacts with our mission.”

He said the alliance was "not interested in dialogue and work as equals".

"We see no reason to pretend that any change is possible in the foreseeable future," he said.

Mr Lavrov said in the event urgent matters arise, Nato could liaise through the Russian ambassador in Belgium.

What did Nato say?

Nato spokeswoman Oana Lungescu said the alliance regretted Russia's decision.

"Nato’s policy towards Russia remains consistent," she said.

"We have strengthened our deterrence and defence in response to Russia's aggressive actions, while at the same time we remain open to dialogue, including through the Nato-Russia Council."

Updated: October 19th 2021, 6:30 AM
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