Brussels (Brussels Morning) Italian police have arrested an Italian Navy captain and a Russian diplomat suspected of spying, after they were caught in an exchange of documents for money at a secret meeting, Reuters reports.
The Italian captain of a Navy frigate met with a Russian military official accredited at the Russian embassy in Rome on Tuesday night. According to the police report, the papers that changed hands included official NATO documents. The duo was charged with “serious crimes tied to spying and state security”.
Officer in custody
The Italian Foreign Ministry summoned the Russian Ambassador to Italy, Sergey Razov, in the wake of the arrest, to demand an explanation for the incident. In a statement given to the Russian RIA news agency, the Embassy said it hopes the incident will not affect bilateral relations between Rome and Moscow.
The Italian police did not reveal the identities of the two persons involved in the suspected espionage operation, nor the location where the arrests took place. The Italian Navy officer was taken into custody, while the position of the Russian official remains under consideration, given his status as an accredited diplomat.
Escalation of espionage
According to the Carabinieri police force, the arrests marked the culmination of a lengthy investigation, which was carried out by Italian intelligence agencies and supported by the military. The Rome prosecutors ordered the arrest as the investigation drew to a close and the perpetrators were caught in the act.
The espionage incident is the latest in a series of recent spying accusations against Russians in EU countries. A German citizen was previously charged with espionage after delivering Reichstag plans to a Russian official in February The Netherlands expelled Russian officials on suspicion of spying in December last year, while Bulgaria did likewise this month.