NATO limits access by Russian diplomats in Crimea fallout

BRUSSELS Mon Apr 7, 2014 11:52am EDT

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BRUSSELS (Reuters) - NATO said on Monday it would limit Russian diplomats' access to alliance headquarters in Brussels as a consequence of its decision to suspend cooperation with Moscow over Russia's annexation of Ukraine's Crimea region.

"The formerly extensive access to NATO headquarters will be denied to all representatives of the Russian Mission (to NATO), except the Russian ambassador, his deputy head of mission, and two support staff," NATO said in a statement.

"Should any other staff from the Russian mission require access for official business, standard visitor rules will apply. That means that the staff member will have to be announced, registered and escorted during their visits," it said.

NATO said the new rules, which take effect on Tuesday, would still give Russian diplomats a level of access to NATO headquarters that was never granted by any Russian ministry or institution to NATO staff working in Moscow.

Russia's mission to NATO, headed by Ambassador Alexander Grushko, is located in the same compound as NATO headquarters in Brussels and is one of the biggest national delegations at NATO.

NATO foreign ministers decided last Tuesday to suspend all practical military and civilian cooperation with Russia, although it said political dialogue could continue at ambassador level or higher, mainly to discuss the crisis in Ukraine.

Russia responded by accusing NATO of reverting to the "verbal jousting" of the Cold War and by recalling its top military representative to NATO for consultations.

NATO's decision last week to suspend cooperation with Russia affected joint work in areas such as training officials from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Central Asia to stem the flow of opium from Afghanistan as well as maintenance of Afghan air force helicopters.

(Reporting by Adrian Croft; editing by Jan Strupczewski)

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