Russia says it will suspend the operations of its mission at NATO headquarters in Brussels in response to the Western security alliance's move to expel eight members of Russia's mission earlier this month.
In a move marking another blow to East-West ties that are already near Cold War lows, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on October 18 that the operations will be suspended as of November 1, and that the those at the NATO military mission in Moscow will have their accreditation stripped the same day as well.
Lavrov added that the NATO Secretariat was notified of the steps taken by the Russian side. According to Lavrov, if NATO had any questions for Russia, representatives of the alliance can turn to its ambassador to Belgium. He did not lay out any conditions for the possible resumption of work at the missions.
In a short statement, NATO said it regretted Russia's move.
"We have taken note of the decision by Russia to suspend the work of its diplomatic mission to NATO, and of NATO's military liaison mission in Moscow, and to close down NATO's information mission in Moscow. We regret these steps," NATO spokeswoman Oana Lungescu said.
"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 to dialogue, including through the NATO-Russia Council."
Lavrov called the actions a response to NATO's October 6 move to expel eight employees of the Russian mission at NATO headquarters. The total number of Russian diplomats in the embassy was cut by half, from 20 to 10.
NATO said at the time that the expelled diplomats were employees of the Russian special services engaged in unfriendly activities.
Relations between NATO and Russia have been tense recently and official contacts have been limited since Moscow siezed Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula in 2014.
The 30-member Western alliance is also concerned about Russia's nuclear missile development, aerial intrusions into NATO airspace, and the buzzing of allied ships by Russian fighter planes.