NATO expels 8 'undeclared' intel officers from Russian delegation

NATO expels 8 'undeclared' intel officers from Russian delegation
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NATO on Wednesday expelled eight "undeclared" Russian intelligence officers from the country’s mission to the military alliance.

In addition, the alliance halved the size of Moscow’s team allowed to work at NATO headquarters in Brussels from 20 to 10, a NATO official confirmed to The Hill.

“We can confirm that we have withdrawn the accreditation of eight members of the Russian Mission to NATO, who were undeclared Russian intelligence officers,” the official said.

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“We can also confirm that we have reduced the number of positions which the Russian Federation can accredit to NATO to 10.”

The eight diplomats are set to leave Brussels by the end of the month, with two other vacant positions also to be scrapped.

The Associated Press was the first to report on the action.

NATO-Russia relations have grown tense since 2014, when Moscow annexed Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula.

Since then, Russian military drills near its borders with other European countries; alleged cyber espionage and attacks; nuclear missile development; and military flights into NATO airspace and near allied ships, have increasingly strained its ties with the alliance.

“NATO’s policy towards Russia remains consistent. 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,” the official said.

In response to the action, senior Russian politician Leonid Slutsky told the Interfax news agency that Moscow could retaliate with “asymmetric” measures.

The alliance previously expelled seven Russian diplomats from the mission in 2018, following the poisoning of a former Russian military officer and double agent for British intelligence and his daughter in Salisbury, England.

As part of that incident, then-President TrumpDonald TrumpFormer defense secretary Esper sues Pentagon in memoir dispute Biden celebrates start of Hanukkah Fauci says lies, threats are 'noise' MORE ordered 60 Russian diplomats be expelled from the United States and the Russian consulate in Seattle be closed.