An Italian naval officer accused of transferring classified military information to Russia allegedly tried to hand over to the Russian military a memory card containing classified data. This is reported by Reuters, citing a source with access to the case file.
According to the newspaper, the police found the Italian’s memory card containing 181 photographs with classified data. 9 of them were classified as strictly confidential, 47 as classified NATO documents. As the newspaper Corriere della Sera clarifies, the data he transmitted could relate to the activities of international missions, including in Afghanistan and Iraq.
What kind of spy scandal happened in Rome?
Italian counterintelligence suspected the Italian military and Russian officer of conspiracy a few months ago and set them under surveillance. Both were detained in a car park in Rome on March 30, when an Italian allegedly tried to pass on classified information.
The arrest of a Russian officer working at the Russian embassy and an Italian navy officer on suspicion of espionage on March 31 was reported by the press service of the ROS carabinieri special unit. “Both are charged with serious crimes related to espionage and state security,” the service said.
As ROS clarified, the Italian navy officer is the captain of the country’s naval frigate. The name of the detainee and the name of the ship were not officially disclosed. As for the detained Russian, then, as reported by the media, he is an employee of the office of the military attaché of the embassy.
The press service of the intelligence unit of the carabinieri reported that the Russian officer and the officer of the Italian fleet were detained red-handed. The Italian officer allegedly handed over secret documents to the Russian in exchange for money.
“According to the results of an official investigation, the officer was arrested, while the position of a foreign citizen is still being considered in connection with his diplomatic status,” ROS explained then.
What is known about the arrested Italian officer?
According to ANSA, the arrested Italian officer’s name is Walter Biot… He is a frigate captain and served in the Department of Military Policy and Planning of the General Staff of the Italian Armed Forces. The agency claimed that Biot had agreed to hand over documents of a military nature, in particular those concerning the country’s military telecommunications systems. He photographed the documents from the computer screen and downloaded them to a USB flash drive. For this information, he was to receive 5 thousand euros.
The Italian officer is currently in prison and charged with political and military espionage. On April 1, a hearing was held in his case. At the trial, Biot said he wanted to help his family.
“I have four children, the eldest does not work, two daughters are studying, and the youngest is seriously ill and needs special care. I was wrong, but I did it for the sake of my family, ”the Corriere della Sera newspaper quotes the Italian. He also added that he had a large debt, which he hoped to pay off in this way.
At the same time, the Italian said that he did not provide the Russian side with any secret information that could threaten the security of Italy or other countries.
“I had no political or ideological interest. I have never jeopardized the security of the state, did not provide relevant information. I have not provided any classified information. I have never provided documents that could endanger Italy or other countries, ”the newspaper Corriere della Sera quotes the words of the Italian.
How did the situation develop at the diplomatic level?
Minister of Foreign Affairs of Italy Luigi di Mayo On March 31, he announced that the Russian and another Russian diplomat would be expelled from the country.
“We expressed a strong protest from the Italian government to the Russian ambassador to Italy (Sergey Razov) and informed him of the immediate expulsion of two Russian officials involved in this extremely serious case, “he wrote on Twitter.
The minister also promised the members of parliament that he would not leave without a reaction the case of Russia’s alleged collection of classified data in Rome in the future. “This is unacceptable and there will be consequences. It is unacceptable for our official to be paid in exchange for information about NATO, ”he said.
Italy expelled Russian diplomats, according to Nova news agency Dmitry Ostroukhov and Alexey Nemudrov… On April 1, they left the country. According to the agency, it is believed that Ostroukhov was detained this week by the Italian security services, when, according to the investigation, he was transferring money to the Italian military.
Alexey Nemudrov, according to Nova, oversaw the operation carried out by Ostroukhov. As reported on the website of the Russian Embassy in the Italian Republic, Nemudrov served as a military air and air-naval attaché.
The Russian Embassy in Italy “expressed regret” over the decision to declare two Russian diplomatic workers persona non grata and expel them from the country and “the hope that what happened will not affect Russian-Italian relations.”
When it became known about the expulsion of diplomats, the Russian Foreign Ministry said that they were clarifying all the circumstances, and added that Russia’s “possible steps” in response to the expulsion of diplomats would be announced later. “We express our regret in connection with the expulsion from Rome of two employees of the Russian embassy. We find out the circumstances of this decision. We will announce additionally about our possible steps in connection with the action, which does not correspond to the level of bilateral relations, “- the TASS Foreign Ministry is quoted as saying.