NATO expels seven Russian diplomats over spy-poisoning

ANI | Updated: Mar 27, 2018 23:10 IST

Brussels [Belgium], Mar. 27 (ANI): The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) on Tuesday expelled seven officials from Russian mission in the aftermath of poisoning of former spy Sergei Skripal at his home in Britain's Salisbury.

Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, in a conference here, announced the organisation was cutting the size of its Russian mission by a third, removing accreditation of seven Russian staff members and rejecting three other pending applications.

The permanent size of the Russian mission has now been cut from 30 to 20 people, according to the Guardian.

The Nato official said the latest action was "a clear and very strong message that there was a cost to Russia's reckless actions" in poisoning the agent earlier this month.

He claimed that Russia had underestimated Nato's resolve and said the announcement would reduce Moscow's capability to do intelligence work across Nato.

The move came after more than 20 western allies ordered the expulsion of dozens of Russian diplomats in response to the nerve agent attack in the UK, in a show of solidarity that represents the biggest concerted blow to Russian intelligence networks in the West since the cold war.

The Secretary-General also said the Nato response was aimed not just at the poisoning -- the first use of a nerve agent on Nato territory, but against the country's unacceptable and illegal behaviour.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov earlier in the day claimed the US had used "colossal blackmail" to force European and other western powers to expel Russian diplomats, and promised Moscow would respond harshly to the expulsion of over 100 diplomats worldwide.

"When one or two diplomats are asked to leave this or that country, with apologies being whispered into our ears, we know for certain that this is a result of colossal pressure and blackmail, which is Washington's chief instrument in the international scene."

British Prime Minister Theresa May on Tuesday told UK Parliament that 23 countries had expelled more than 115 Russian intelligence diplomats, which "represents an unprecedented series of expulsions that demonstrates to the Kremlin that we will not tolerate their attempts to flout international law, undermine our values or threaten our security".

Only a handful of EU countries including Austria, Portugal, Greece and Malta, have declined to take any step.

Many other countries have expelled one or two diplomats, a move designed to register support for the UK.(ANI)