Russia to expel two Canadian NATO officials: report

Tue May 5, 2009 2:21pm EDT
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MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia will order out two Canadian NATO envoys on Wednesday in response to the alliance's expulsion of two Russian diplomats, Interfax news agency quoted an unnamed Foreign Ministry official as saying on Tuesday.

Isabelle Francois, the director of NATO's Information Bureau in the Russian capital, along with a colleague from her office will be stripped of their diplomatic accreditations immediately, Interfax reported.

"The withdrawal of diplomatic accreditation in Russia will be our response," Interfax quoted the official as saying, adding that the Canadian ambassador to Russia would be summoned to the ministry on May 6.

"We were not the ones who initiated such behavior. We have been forced to act this way."

The Russian Foreign Ministry could not be reached for comment. A NATO spokesman said the alliance had not been formally notified by Moscow of any action and was therefore unable to comment.

NATO expelled two Brussels-based Russian diplomats last week, citing the case of an Estonian jailed in February for handing sensitive documents to Russia's SVR foreign intelligence service.

Russia's brief war with Georgia last August, the NATO war games planned in the tiny ex-Soviet state starting May 6 and the expulsion of the Russian diplomats have muddied separate efforts by Moscow and Washington to improve relations between Russia and


Earlier on Tuesday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov dropped plans to attend a meeting of the NATO-Russia Council this month in protest at NATO's expulsion of Russian diplomats last Wednesday in a spy scandal, the same day it held its first formal talks with Russia for eight months.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has complained about NATO's "muscle-flexing" over the military exercises in NATO aspirant Georgia, involving 1,300 troops from the 28-member organization and partner countries.

(Reporting by Amie Ferris-Rotman)