NATO is expelling eight members of the Russian mission from its headquarters, whom it considers to be members of the Russian special services, reported ABC News, citing a senior representative of the North Atlantic Alliance.
Russians with diplomatic passports who worked at the bloc's mission in Brussels were "undeclared intelligence officers," said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. NATO also decided to reduce the size of the Russian mission to 10 people, without commenting on the reasons for this step.
"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 explained.
According to Sky News, the Russians were suspected of "malign activities", including "including killings and espionage". The decision was made on the basis of reports from NATO member states, and now diplomats are given time until the end of October to leave Brussels. Sources of the Russian newspaper Kommersant in the Russian government said that Russia was given no prior warning that eight of its employees were being stripped off accreditation. The list with the names was given, and it did not contain any explanation as to why the designated people were deprived of accreditation.
Earlier, four U.S. senators from both parties, including Bob Menendez and Mark Rubio who authored the “sanction from hell” bill, appealed to Joe Biden’s administration with a proposal for the mass expulsion of Russian diplomats.
In their opinion, 300 Russians need to be expelled from the United States in order to equalize the number of diplomatic representatives. This measure - the largest since the Cold War - will require recognizing as persona non grata not only the embassy staff, but also a significant part of the Russian mission to the UN.
As relations between Russia and the West continue to spiral down, spy scandals and mutual expulsions of diplomats are becoming the new normal.
Less than six months ago, in April, Moscow and Western countries mutually expelled more than 140 diplomats and embassy staff, breaking the record of Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan.
The United States declared persona non grata employees of the Russian Embassy as part of sanctions for election interference, chemical weapons and SolarWinds cyber attack.
And the Czech Republic expelled Russian diplomats for the involvement of Russian intelligence in the explosion at the ammunition depot in Vrbetice in 2014, which killed two Czech citizens.