Belgian authorities have yet to expel two Russian diplomats accused of espionage against NATO, a spokesman for the alliance said Thursday, as two Canadians selected by Russia to be kicked out in response to the removal order remained in Moscow.
"I don't think it has been done yet," NATO spokesman James Appathurai told CBC News on Thursday, in an interview from Brussels.
The two Russian envoys were expelled from NATO headquarters in Brussels last week. Russian officials said that move was in retaliation for a spy case dating back to February.
Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon said Russia has offered assurances that expulsion of two Canadian diplomats working for NATO was not directed against Canada, but was an act of retaliation against the alliance.
Appathurai said the Canadians — Isabelle François, director of NATO's information office in Moscow, and her colleague Mark Opgenorth — are "doing just fine."
"We're in good touch with them," he said. "They understand fully the context in which this has taken place."
The expulsion of the Canadian officials will effectively cause Nato's information office in Moscow to close. Both diplomats will likely return to NATO headquarters in Brussels.
Moscow was also riled by NATO military exercises in neighbouring Georgia, which fought a five-day war last summer with Russia. Both Georgia and NATO insisted Russia was welcome to participate in the exercises, but Moscow dismissed the idea.
NATO's Appathurai said the expulsions had "nothing to do" with the alliance's exercises in Georgia.
"This takes place in the context of a longer problem of espionage that I can’t discuss in too much detail, but suffice it to say that this is a separate issue," he said.