Rome expelled two Russian officials after an Italian officer was arrested and charged with espionage for Moscow. The Kremlin says it has “no information on the causes and circumstances” of this affair.
Italy announced on March 31 the expulsion of two Russian officials the day after the arrest of an Italian naval officer who allegedly handed over “classified” documents to a Russian soldier for a sum of money.
Gendarmes from a special unit “arrested an officer of the military navy,” Italian law enforcement officials said in a statement, adding that the operation had targeted “a frigate captain of the military navy and a officer accredited to the Embassy of the Russian Federation, both accused of serious crimes relating to espionage and state security ”.
We hope that the positive and constructive character of Russian-Italian relations […] will be preserved
“The intervention took place at the time of a clandestine meeting between the two men, caught in the act of handing over classified documents by the Italian officer in exchange for a sum of money”, further specifies the text. According to several Italian media the sum in question would amount to 5,000 euros in cash. The Italian officer has been arrested, while the Russian serviceman is protected by his diplomatic status.
Russian Embassy hopes “this incident will not affect bilateral relations” between Moscow and Rome
The Italian Foreign Ministry summoned the Russian Ambassador to Rome. He “transmitted to him the firm protest of the Italian government and notified the immediate expulsion of two Russian officials involved in this very serious affair”, announced in the middle of the day the head of Italian diplomacy Luigi Di Maio.
The Russian Embassy reacted on the same day: “We confirm that an employee of the administration of the military attaché in Rome was arrested on March 30. The circumstances of the incident are being examined ”, explain the Russian diplomatic services. Deeming “inappropriate for the moment to comment on the substance of the case”, the embassy hopes “that this incident will not affect bilateral relations between Russia and Italy”.
In Moscow, Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Peskov told him that the Russian presidency “had no information on the causes and circumstances” of this affair. “We hope that the positive and constructive character of Russian-Italian relations […] will be preserved, ”he added. According to the Interfax agency, citing an anonymous Russian parliamentarian, Russia could, by reciprocity, expel two Italian diplomats.