Russia Cuts Ties With NATO, Closes Moscow Office After 8 Russians Expelled From Alliance

Russia said Monday it was cutting ties with NATO and closing the organization's Moscow office after NATO ousted eight Russian officials from its ranks earlier this month, the Associated Press reported. NATO accused the eight Russian diplomats of secretly working as intelligence officers, though Moscow has denied the allegations and claimed they were baseless.

NATO suspended the accreditation of the Russian officials, which meant they could no longer access the NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium. NATO also whittled down Russia's team at the headquarters from 20 to 10, the AP reported.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov announced the retaliatory move Monday, claiming that NATO "isn't interested in any kind of equal dialogue or joint work." He added that the closure of NATO's information offices and military liaison in Moscow comes as Russia doesn't "see any need to keep pretending that there could be any shift in the foreseeable future," according to the AP.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Russia Cuts Ties With NATO
Russia announced Monday it was cutting ties with NATO and closing the organization’s Moscow office after the accreditation of eight Russian officials was suspended earlier this month. In this handout photo released by the Russian Foreign Ministry Press Service, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov speaks on the side of the meeting dedicated to the 25th anniversary of the House of Russian Diaspora named after Alexander Solzhenitsyn in Moscow, Russia, Monday, October 18, 2021. Russian Foreign Ministry Press Service via AP

Lavrov added that contacts between the Western alliance and Russia could be maintained through the Russian Embassy in Belgium.

"As a result of NATO's deliberate moves, we have practically no conditions for elementary diplomatic work and in response to NATO's actions, we suspend the work of our permanent mission to NATO, including the work of the chief military envoy, probably from November 1. Or it may take several more days," Lavrov said.

The Foreign Ministry said in a separate statement that NATO's actions "confirm that they are not interested in an equal dialogue and joint work to deescalate military-political tensions."

"The alliance's line towards our country is becoming more and more aggressive," the ministry noted. "The 'Russian threat' is inflated in order to strengthen the internal unity of the alliance, to create the appearance of its 'relevance' in modern geopolitical conditions."

NATO spokesperson Oana Lungescu said the alliance has taken note of Lavrov's statement, but added it hasn't yet received an official notice from Moscow.

The Russian mission isn't based at NATO's headquarters, but in a leafy neighborhood in the south of the Belgian capital, Brussels.

NATO suspended practical cooperation with Russia in 2014 after it annexed Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula, but has kept channels open for high-level meetings and for military-to-military cooperation. But the NATO-Russia Council, their preferred forum, has only met sporadically since then.

Amid a strain in ties, Moscow has repeatedly voiced concern over the deployment of NATO forces near Russian borders, describing it as a threat to its security. Russia and the alliance also have blamed each other for conducting destabilizing military exercises near the borders.

NATO Information Office in Moscow
Russia said on October 18, 2021 it was suspending its mission to NATO and closing the alliance's offices in Moscow, as relations with the Western military bloc plunged to new depths. A security guard patrols outside a building that houses the NATO information office in Moscow on October 18, 2021. Dimitar Dilkoff/AFP via Getty Images