Russia expels 2 NATO diplomats

Georgian tanks move in convoy along a road outside Tbilisi Tuesday. Photo: AFP
By Wen Yufang and Hao Zhou

In a tit-for-tat expulsion, Russia’s Foreign Ministry announced yesterday it is expelling two Canadian diplomats working at NATO’s Information Office in Moscow, according to the Russian News and Information Agency.
“In response to an unfriendly act on the part of NATO regarding Russian officials in NATO headquarters, the Russian side made a forced decision to withdraw diplomatic accreditation from the director of the NATO Information Office in Moscow, Canadian Embassy attache Isabelle Francois, and a second bureau official, Canadian Embassy attache Mark Opgenorth,” the ministry said.
Russia’s ambassador to NATO said yesterday that Russia’s action was a proportional response to the expulsion of its two diplomats from Brussels, adding that now it is time to draw a line under the dispute.
Despite fierce opposition from Russia, NATO yesterday launched a military exercise in Georgia as planned, a former Soviet republic, involving at least 1,300 troops from more than a dozen NATO members and its partner countries. The war games will last until June 1 at the Vaziani base, a former Russian air force base, about 70 km from where Russian troops are stationed in South Ossetia.
Russia signed border defense agreements on April 30 with South Ossetia and Abkhazia, two breakaway Georgian regions. Under the agreements, the two regions will delegate their border guard duties to Russia until they establish their own border guard agencies.
The exercises took place a day after Georgia said it had quelled a mutiny at an army base that it claimed was part of a Kremlin-bankrolled plot to disrupt the NATO event. Moscow denied the accusation of its involvement, labeling the charges “ridiculous”.
Russia, anxious about NATO’s expansion to include its former Soviet allies and new NATO bases emerging on its border, is strongly opposed to membership of the alliance for Georgia and Ukraine.

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