Italian counterintelligence officers detained in Rome a high-ranking officer of the Italian navy while he was passing classified information to an officer of the Russian embassy, reports the newspaper La Repubblica.
The individuals were detained during the "exchange of documents." The operation was carried out after a long investigation involving the Italian Internal Information and Security Service, Italian Carabinieri Special Operations Group, representatives of the country's intelligence and defense agencies.
According to the newspaper, the Italian agreed to provide classified information to Russian in exchange for money, because he was "probably facing serious family problems."
The press service of the Carabinieri Special Operations Group reported that the detention took place on March 30. Then, a captain of the Italian Navy and an officer of the Russian Armed Forces accredited at the Russian Embassy were detained.
"The detention took place during a secret meeting between them, both were detained red-handed immediately after the transfer of secret documents by an Italian officer in exchange for money. As a result, an Italian officer was arrested while the situation with the foreign national is still under consideration due to his diplomatic status," Italian security officials said.
La Repubblica notes that in the recent history of Italy there have been no such precedents. The last operation related to espionage for Russia, took place during the Cold War in 1989. Then, arrest warrants were issued for several people, including two alleged KGB agents and a Bulgarian intelligence officer. Three foreigners, the newspaper notes, managed to escape. A Carabinieri officer escaped together with the Russians.
On March 20, after a spy scandal in Bulgaria, Prime Minister Boyko Borissov announced his intention to declare two Russian diplomats persona non grata. "Once again, we have to declare Russian diplomats undesirable persons," he said at the time. The prime minister stressed that Sofia has repeatedly demonstrated friendly relations to Moscow, including in the construction of the Balkan Stream gas pipeline. But no one is allowed to spy on the territory of the country. "Again, I want to call on their [Russian] leaders: Stop spying in Bulgaria," Borissov said.