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NATO expels 2 Russian envoys, raps pact on Georgia
Thu Apr 30, 2009 12:10pm EDT
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By David Brunnstrom
BRUSSELS (Reuters) - NATO has expelled two Russian diplomats over a spy scandal, a move Moscow's ambassador said was intended to set back efforts by Russia and the United States to repair relations.
Tensions between the former Cold War foes also rose on Thursday over agreements which Moscow said gave it control over the borders of two rebel regions in Georgia.
NATO ordered out the diplomats on the same day the alliance resumed formal talks with Russia at ambassadorial level, eight months after contacts were suspended over Russia's five-day war with Georgia last August.
"Two Russian diplomats have been told they are not welcome here," a NATO diplomat said.
The diplomat said they were expelled over the case of Herman Simm, an Estonian jailed for treason in February for handing more than 2,000 pages of information to handlers in Russia's SVR Foreign Intelligence Service.
A statement from the Russian mission to NATO said the move set the wrong tone for the process of resuming NATO-Russia cooperation and Russia's ambassador to the alliance Dmitry Rogozin said the response would be "harsh and decisive."
The statement said Russia was still considering its response but the expulsions, which came one week before alliance military exercises in Georgia which have angered Russia, "might call into question" a meeting of NATO-Russia foreign ministers expected in the second half of May.
The diplomats were attached to the mission Russia has at NATO even though it is not a member of the military alliance. One was the son of Vladimir Chizhov, Moscow's ambassador to the European Union, and the other a senior adviser to Rogozin.
Russia said the expulsions were driven by elements inside the Western alliance that wanted to undermine ties with Moscow.
"A crude provocation has been made in relation to two employees of Russia's permanent mission to NATO on an absolutely trumped-up pretext without any clear explanation," Russia's Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
ROW OVER PACTS WITH REBEL REGIONS
The 28-nation alliance separately criticized pacts giving Russia direct control over the de-facto borders of Georgia's South Ossetia and Abkhazia regions.
Russia took formal control over the borders of the two regions under the agreements, which were signed by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and the leaders of the rebel regions.
NATO spokesman James Appathurai said the signing of the agreements contravened the peace deals brokered by the EU after Russia's brief war with Georgia.
"This is in clear contravention of the 12th August and 8th September agreements negotiated by the European Union and is not in the interests of long-term peace and security in the South Caucasus region," Appathurai told reporters. Continued...
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