Russia revoked the diplomatic accreditation Wednesday of two Canadians who worked at the NATO Information Office in Moscow, the Russian Foreign Ministry said.
It comes after Belgium revoked the diplomatic accreditation of two Russian representatives at NATO headquarters last week. The Belgian Foreign Ministry accused the two Russians of spying activities incompatible with their diplomatic status, Russia’s Interfax news agency reported. Moscow described Belgium’s accusations as trumped up and promised a response, Interfax reported. Isabelle Francois, the head of the NATO Information Office in Moscow, and another official from her office were stripped of their accreditation, the Russian Foreign Ministry reported. Both were also accredited as attaches with the Canadian Embassy in Russia. A spokesperson for the Canadian Embassy could not immediately be reached for comment. Russia is refraining from declaring the two personae non gratae, a Russian Foreign Ministry official told Interfax. It was unclear whether the two diplomats would have to leave the country.
Russia slams NATO plan to expel diplomats
Russia is unhappy with NATO military exercises beginning this week in Georgia and scheduled to last a month. Russia has accused the alliance of “muscle-flexing.” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov postponed his trip to Brussels, Belgium, for Wednesday’s ministerial meeting of the NATO-Russia Council because of the planned exercises, Lavrov told the Itar-Tass news agency. A spokeswoman for NATO, however, said Lavrov was never supposed to attend the meeting because it is being held at the ambassadorial level. It was unclear whether he was intending to be in Brussels for another matter. NATO ministers had agreed to use Wednesday’s meeting “as a forum for dialogue with Russia on all issues — where they agree and disagree — with a view towards resolving problems and building practical co-operation,” according to an announcement issued earlier this year.