Friday, January 21

An Italian navy soldier arrested after handing over secret NATO documents to a Russian officer

Correspondent in Rome



Russian espionage is the protagonist in Italy of the most serious case since the times of the Cold War, an unprecedented episode in this country. The investigative body of the Arma de Carabinieri detained an Italian Navy officer (Frigate Captain), on Tuesday night, immediately after, in exchange for money, deliver secret Italian and NATO documents, to a Russian military officer accredited to the Russian Embassy in Rome. They were caught red-handed during their clandestine encounter. The two soldiers are accused of serious crimes related to espionage and state security. The Russian officer could not be arrested due to his diplomatic status.

The Navy frigate captain is in jail, accused of having sold secret documents, both Italian and NATO. In the search carried out in his apartment, it has been shown that, in addition to Italian reports, the frigate captain gave the Russian military NATO documents, considered highly secret. Hence the accusation of a serious crime not only against national security, but also against other States.

The first sign of the relations between the two soldiers was given weeks ago by the Italian secret services (the Information and Internal Security Agency, AISI). AISI control of the movements of the two soldiers was then established, in collaboration with agents of the ROS of the Carabinieri Army and the Defense General Staff. When the agents were certain that the officer of the Russian armed forces I had money to pay for the documents and, in addition, there was evidence to prove espionage, the order was given for the ROS carabinieri to act. Under the direction of the Rome Prosecutor’s Office, the carabinieri arrested the two soldiers in the act, just after the delivery of the secret documents in exchange for money.

Expulsion of two Russian officials

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced that the Secretary General, the diplomat Elisabetta Belloni, number two of the Ministry, summoned this morning the ambassador of the Russian Federation in Rome, Sergey Razov, following the instructions of the Foreign Minister, Luigi Di Maio. Di Maio himself wrote on Facebook: “When the Russian ambassador to Italy was summoned to the ministry, we conveyed to the latter the firm protest of the Italian government and notified the immediate expulsion of the two Russian officials involved in this very serious matter. I thank our intelligence services and all the state apparatuses that work every day for the security of our country.

For its part, the Russian Embassy has limited itself to commenting: “We confirmed the arrest on March 30 in Rome of an official from the Office of the Military Attaché. We are verifying the circumstances of what happened. For now, we consider it inappropriate to comment on the content of the incident. In any case, we hope that what happened is not reflected in the bilateral relations between Russia and Italy.

It is not the first time that relations between Russian and Italian officials have been discovered with the sale of confidential documents. But this time there is a big difference from the recent past. Until now the reserved material that Italian officials sold to Russia was related, above all, with industrial affairs. In September 2019 in Naples, at the request of the US authorities, Aleksandr Korshunov, a senior executive of the Russian state-owned company for the production of Odk engines, was arrested and accused by Washington of “economic espionage.”

In the new case discovered yesterday, it concerns documents on the national security of Italy and NATO, a fact that the Italian government describes as “extremely serious.” The matter has already turned into a serious diplomatic case. For Italy it is a very disturbing episode, which shows how this country has also been involved, like other Western nations, in the new Russian strategy. Various Italian media have denounced some Russian activities in recent years, in particular disinformation campaigns launched from anonymous profiles on social networks. It was found that the false news was spread by organizations close to the Kremlin to delegitimize the Italian government and institutions. Now the accusation is much more serious, because it is an openly hostile episode, being espionage.

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