Russian diplomats expelled from Rome amid reports Italy has arrested military officers on charges of secretly spying for Moscow

Two Russian envoys have been told to pack their bags and leave Rome, after Italy arrested two people alleged to be part of a shadowy espionage network, which security agencies claim fed confidential information back to Moscow.

On Wednesday, the Italian Foreign Ministry confirmed it had ordered the expulsions and summoned the Russian ambassador after police said they had apprehended an Italian sailor and a Russian military official.

The country’s Carabinieri police said that the frigate captain and the embassy-accredited Russian were accused of “serious crimes tied to spying and state security.” The names of those involved have not been released but the Italian naval officer has been arrested.

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The Russian citizen at the center of the cloak-and-dagger row is said to have been an employee of the military attache’s office, and was detained in Rome. It was not immediately clear whether he is among the pair of diplomats who have been expelled.

In a statement issued later on Wednesday, the Foreign Ministry in Moscow said that it “expressed its regret in connection with the expulsion from Rome of two employees of the Russian embassy.” Officials added that, while they are awaiting more details on the circumstances of the case, “the action does not correspond with the level of bilateral relations.”

President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, told reporters at the same time that “we do not currently have information about the reasons and rationale behind this detention.” However, he said, “in any case, we hope that the very positive and constructive nature of Russian-Italian relations will continue and be preserved.”

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