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Russia closes diplomatic mission to NATO over spying accusations

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Russia closes diplomatic mission to NATO over spying accusations
NATO said last week that it cut the staff of the Russian mission from 20 to 10, revoking accreditation for eight Russian diplomats and eliminating two vacant positions. File Photo by Toms Kalnins/EPA-EFE

Oct. 18 (UPI) -- The Russian government said Monday that it's closing its military liaison mission to NATO and recalled staffers to Moscow, in retaliation to the alliance expelling several Russians last week and accusing them of espionage.

Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov made the announcement during a news conference in Moscow.

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"In response to NATO's actions, we are suspending the activity of the NATO military liaison mission in Moscow and will recall the accreditation of its staff," Lavrov said, according to state-run TASS.

"If NATO has some urgent matters, it may contact our ambassador in Belgium on these issues."

NATO said last week that it cut the staff of the Russian mission from 20 to 10, revoking accreditation for eight Russian diplomats and eliminating two vacant positions.

NATO said it made the move because it believed the diplomatic members were undeclared Russian spies.

On Monday, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin met with Georgia's prime minister and defense minister during a tour to "reassure" allies and partners of "America's commitment to their sovereignty in the face of Russian aggression."

Austin will also visit Ukraine and Romania before a stop at NATO headquarters in Brussels.

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