Italy expels Russian Embassy officials for alleged spying

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Italy’s government summoned Russia’s ambassador to the country on Wednesday after expelling two diplomats, accusing the pair of being spies, The Guardian reported.

The expulsion reportedly occurred after police told the newspaper that one of the two Russian officials was caught by Italian police at a “clandestine meeting” with an Italian Navy captain, who was arrested “immediately after the transfer of a document by the Italian officer in exchange for a sum of money.”

“The Italian official was taken into custody, while the position of the foreign national is still under consideration in relation to his diplomatic status,” Italian police told The Guardian.

The Russian Embassy in Italy confirmed the expulsions in a statement.

“The circumstances surrounding the incident are the subject of investigation,” it told The Guardian. “For now, we consider it inappropriate to comment on what happened. However, we hope that what happened does not affect bilateral relations between Russia and Italy.”

“We regret the expulsion from Rome of two employees of the Russian embassy. We are investigating the circumstances of the decision. We will make a further announcement on our possible next steps in relation to this measure, which does not correspond to the level of bilateral relations,” added the Russian foreign ministry in a statement.

A State Department spokesperson told The Hill that the agency was “aware of the case,” and added that  “we support the government of Italy’s actions to safeguard its security.”

The news comes roughly a month after three other European nations, Germany, Poland and Sweden, expelled one Russian diplomat each in response to Moscow’s own decision to expel three European Union officials whom it had accused of taking part in anti-corruption demonstrations.

The U.S. and its allies also expelled more than 100 diplomats collectively in 2018 after Russian agents were accused of committing a poisoning attack on an ex-Russian spy and his daughter living in the United Kingdom.

Updated at 5:15 p.m. with a comment from a State Department spokesperson.

Tags Expelled Italy Kremlin Russia Russian Embassy spying

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