Russia has ordered Nato to close its liaison office in Moscow and recalled diplomats accredited to the western military alliance, the foreign ministry said, in effect severing diplomatic ties as relations between the two continue to sink to their lowest level since the cold war.
The measures, which cut off the main channel of communication between Moscow and the alliance, will come into effect on November 1, Russia’s foreign ministry said in a statement.
Nato earlier this month expelled eight members of the Russian delegation to the alliance that it described as “undeclared intelligence officers”, reducing the maximum size of the Russian delegation to 10 diplomatic staff.
“We do not have the conditions for even basic diplomatic activity as a result of intentional steps by Nato,” Russia’s foreign minister Sergei Lavrov said at a briefing on Monday.
“In response to Nato’s actions, we are suspending the work of our permanent mission to Nato,” Lavrov said. The accreditations of Nato staff in Moscow would also be withdrawn, he added.
If Nato officials needed to contact Moscow, they could do so via the Russian ambassador to Belgium, Lavrov said. Diplomatic representatives of western Nato members could serve a similar function in Moscow, the foreign ministry statement said.
“We regret these steps,” Nato spokesperson, Oana Lungescu, said in a statement to the Financial Times. “Nato’s policy towards Russia remains consistent. 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.”
Relations between the Kremlin and western capitals are at their lowest point since the end of the cold war, after Moscow’s invasion and annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, allegations of Russian meddling in western elections, and the attempted assassination attempt of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny.
The invasion of Crimea led to the suspension of all practical military co-operation between Russia and Nato, first formalised in 1997. After the attempted assassination of double agent Sergei Skripal in the UK in 2018, Nato reduced the maximum size of the Russian delegation from 30 to 20 diplomats.
However, Nato had previously said that channels of communication remained open for the two sides to “exchange information on issues of mutual interest and concern, reduce misunderstandings and increase predictability”.
Moscow’s decision to suspend its Nato mission and halt the work of Nato staff in Moscow formally closes those final channels.
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