Russia to suspend Nato diplomatic mission amid tension

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Russia says it is suspending its Nato diplomatic mission amid increasing tension

Russia is suspending its diplomatic mission to Nato, according to Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

In addition, staff at Nato's office in Moscow will be stripped of their accreditation by November.

It comes after Nato expelled eight diplomats from Russia's mission earlier this month, saying they were working as intelligence officers.

Relations between Nato and Russia have been strained since Moscow annexed Ukraine's Crimean peninsula in 2014.

Mr Lavrov confirmed to Russian media that the move was "in response to Nato's actions", accusing the military alliance of not being "interested in equitable dialogue".

"If Nato members have any urgent matters, they can contact our ambassador in Belgium on these questions," Russian media quoted Mr Lavrov as saying.

Following the announcement, Nato said it had taken note of Russia's decision.

"We regret these steps," Nato spokeswoman Oana Lungescu said. "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".

Russia's move was described by German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas as troubling.

"It's more than just regrettable, this decision taken in Moscow will seriously damage the relationship," he said.

When Nato expelled eight Russian diplomats this month, it halved the size of Moscow's mission working at its Brussels headquarters to 10.

At the time, Nato Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said the organisation had seen "an increase in Russian malign activity, and therefore we need to be vigilant".

A Nato official said the men were "undeclared Russian intelligence officers".

In 2018, Nato expelled Russian diplomats in response to a nerve agent attack in the city of Salisbury in the UK. It also reduced the size of Russia's mission from 30 to 20.