Italy expels two Russian officials in suspected espionage case

Rome, Mar 31 (efe-epa).- Italy has lodged a formal complaint with Moscow after an Italian navy officer was arrested on Tuesday night for allegedly selling classified information to Russian military officials.

In a statement on Wednesday morning, Italian foreign minister Luigi di Maio said that the two Russians involved in the “very serious” matter would be immediately expelled from the country, while the Russian ambassador to Italy, Sergey Razov, had been summoned to the Italian foreign ministry.

“We have conveyed the Italian government’s firm protest to the Russian ambassador and notified him of the immediate expulsion of the two Russian officials involved in this very serious affair,” he said.

An Italian Navy officer was arrested Tuesday night and a Russian Armed Forces officer held for “serious crimes related to espionage and state security” after carrying out “an exchange of classified information in exchange for money,” the Carabinieri said Wednesday.

The police operation took place when the frigate captain of the Italian Military Navy and an officer accredited to the Russian Embassy were “caught in the act immediately after the delivery of classified documents by the Italian officer in exchange for a sum of money” while holding “a clandestine meeting.”

The Russian embassy issued a statement confirming the arrest of their officials.

“We confirm the arrest on March 30 in Rome of an official of the Military Attaché’s office. The circumstances of what happened are being verified. At the moment, it seems inappropriate for us to comment on what happened. In any case, we hope that it will not reflect on bilateral relations between Russia and Italy,” the Embassy said.

The operation by the Carabinieri, under the direction of the Rome Prosecutor’s Office, was carried out as part of an investigation conducted by the Internal Security Intelligence Agency, with the support of the Defense General Staff, it said in a statement.

“I thank our intelligence and all the state apparatuses that work every day for the security of our country,” Di Maio said.

The expulsions are the latest in a series of recent incidents between Russia and Nato members.

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