Italy orders two Russian embassy staff exiled for spies

Rome — Italy ordered two Russian embassy officials to be expelled on Wednesday, and after police arrested a police officer who allegedly handed a confidential document to one of the Russians in exchange for money, the Italian Navy was accused of spying. Arrested the captain.

Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio said at a joint session of the Italian Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee that the document was about NATO information and that the case was “extremely serious hostilities.”

“It’s not just our security that’s at stake, but the security of NATO as a whole, and we can’t accept it,” he told lawmakers.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the Russian ambassador to protest the “serious incident” after a sting operation in the suburbs of Rome caught one of the Italians and Russians in a “secret operation” to exchange documents for cash late Tuesday. He said he had summoned Sergei Razov.

Italian Paramilitary Police said the captain of an Italian frigate had been arrested. The Russians observed with him, a member of the Russian army stationed at the Russian embassy in Italy, were initially detained but not immediately arrested due to his diplomatic status. ..

Mr Dimaio told lawmakers that he had been ordered to be expelled along with another Russian embassy official who was allegedly involved. Dimaio did not provide details about the suspicious role of the second Russian.

Italy Russia intelligence
The Russian Embassy in Rome, Italy, March 31, 2021. (Alessandra Tarantino / AP Photo)

The Russian embassy in Rome confirmed the detention of a diplomat who belonged to the military attaché’s office, but did not comment on the case.

“In any case, I hope it doesn’t affect bilateral relations,” he said in a statement.

According to a Carabinieri statement, Italian special forces in Rome were “surprised that they were handed in the red shortly after the Italian authorities handed over confidential documents during a covert operation between the two.” Stated.

Carabinieri said both were accused of “serious espionage and national security crimes.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said in a conference call with reporters that Kremlin was unaware of the details of the case, but said, “Very positive and constructive relations between Russia and Italy. I hope my personality will be maintained. “

The Russian Foreign Ministry expressed regret over the expulsion of diplomats in a brief statement issued by a Russian news agency. “Possible measures will be announced later in connection with situations that do not meet the level of bilateral relations,” he added.

British Foreign Minister Dominic Raab tweeted his support for Italy.

“The United Kingdom is in solidarity with Italy and its actions today, exposing and taking action on Russia’s malicious and volatile activities aimed at undermining @ NATO’s allies,” he said. Retweet Dimaio’s tweet announcing the expulsion.

Nicole Winfield