Oct. 6 (UPI) — NATO on Wednesday said it will expel eight Russian diplomats accused of working as spies, while also reducing the size of the Russian delegation.
“We can confirm that we have withdrawn the accreditation of eight members of the Russian Mission to NATO, who were undeclared Russian intelligence officers,” NATO said in a statement shared with both The Washington Post and The Hill.
NATO also decreased the size of Moscow’s team allowed to work in NATO headquarters in Brussels from 20 to 10 as the eight diplomats are set to leave by the end of the month and two vacant positions will be removed.
“NATO’s policy towards Russia remains consistent,” NATO said. “We have strengthened our deterrence and defense in response to Russia’s aggressive actions, while at the same time we remain open for a meaningful dialogue.”
Officials did not reveal how they discovered the Russian members were working as intelligence officers or what their roles were.
“This decision is based on intelligence and we are not going to comment on intelligence,” NATO said.
Leonid Slutsky, chair of the international affairs committee in Russia’s lower house of parliament, denied the allegations and said the foreign ministry would retaliate.
“The collective West continues a policy towards the diplomatic standoff with Russia,” Slutsky said in an interview with Russian media. “Stripping of accreditation eight staffers of the Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to NATO will further decrease the level of cooperation.”
In 2015, NATO also removed Russian diplomats it believed were acting as spies and it decreased the maximum size of the Russian delegation from 30 to 20 diplomats in 2018 following the poisoning of double-agent Sergei Skripal.