Russia closing Nato office in tit for tat move following ‘spy’ expulsion

Any urgent business with Russia will now be done via its embassy in Brussels, said Sergei Lavrov

Oliver Carroll
Moscow Correspondent
Monday 18 October 2021 15:27 BST
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A car with diplomatic license plates enters the grounds of a building that houses the NATO information office in Moscow. Russia said it was suspending its mission to NATO and closing the alliance's offices
A car with diplomatic license plates enters the grounds of a building that houses the NATO information office in Moscow. Russia said it was suspending its mission to NATO and closing the alliance's offices (AFP via Getty Images)

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Russia has announced it is closing its office at NATO in response to the earlier expulsion of eight of its diplomats for alleged spying.

Confirming the move on Monday, foreign secretary Sergei Lavrov said the move changed little in Moscow’s already chilly relations with the western alliance.

"We don’t see a great need to pretend that changes are possible in the near future, because NATO has made it clear that such changes are impossible," he said.

The veteran diplomat confirmed the representative office at NATO HQ would close its doors on 1 November — the same day that Russia would require NATO close its military mission and information bureau in Moscow.

Any urgent business with Russia will now be done via its embassy in Brussels, Mr Lavrov added.

Military cooperation between Russia and NATO has been largely frozen since April 2014, when NATO put an end to joint operations following Russian military actions in Crimea and eastern Ukraine.

Talking more generally is on hold. The NATO-Russia Council, set up in 2002 at a high point when there was still talk of Russia joining the western alliance, has not met in two years.

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said that he would like to see that council meet again. Russia has said it is sees no sense in such an endeavour — especially in light of the 8 October explosions.

Commenting Russia’s decision to respond so abruptly, the former Russian diplomat Vladimir Frolov said it amounted to little more than a "feel good gesture."

It changed little on the ground, he said; communications were now so sparse they could be handled by "one man with a cell phone" at the embassy.

"In terms of diplomatic posture it’s back to the USSR," Mr Frolov said.

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