Russia suspends mission to NATO in response to blocs actions, Moscow minister claims

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Sergei Lavrov, 71, announced the Kremlin has moved to suspend its permanent mission in NATO following a souring of relations between the bloc and Russia. Tensions between the Kremlin and NATO became increasingly strained after Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula in 2014.

Four years later, NATO opted to expel seven Russian diplomats following the fatal nerve-agent attack on Salisbury.

Since then, the transatlantic bloc has reduced the Russian contingent by another eight earlier this month after diplomats were accused of working covertly as intelligence officers.

NATO’s most recent move reduced the overall size of the Russian delegation to just ten diplomatic members of staff.

Mr Lavrov’s announcement, which is set to come into effect as early as November 1, will also see Russia strip NATO’s Moscow office of all accreditation.

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According to the Financial Times, the Kremlin’s Foreign Minister said: “We do not have the conditions for even basic diplomatic activity as a result of intentional steps by NATO.”

The 71-year-old added: “In response to NATO’s actions, we are suspending the work of our permanent mission to NATO.”

Russian media outlets report Lavrov has also advised NATO that if they wish to contact the Kremlin on “any urgent matters” then they should do so through Russia’s ambassador in Belgium.

NATO has since responded to Mr Lavrov’s comments.

Oana Lungescu, the bloc’s spokeswoman, said: “We regret these steps.”

She added: “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.”

The German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas added: “It’s more than just regrettable, this decision taken in Moscow will seriously damage the relationship.”

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Tensions have risen between Moscow and other European capitals as a result of the ongoing gas price crisis.

Russia provides around half of all natural gas imports for member states of the European Union.

While the Kremlin denies withholding supplies for “political reasons”, many believe Russia could be making the move in an attempt to force Europe to approve of the controversial Nord Stream 2 pipeline.

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