Italy has expelled two Russian diplomats after police said they had caught an Italian navy captain passing secret documents to a Russian military official in return for money.
The Italian captain and the Russian embassy staff member were arrested in a car park in Rome and accused of spying and threats to state security after their meeting on Tuesday night.
The suspects were not officially identified but police source said the captain was called Walter Biot and had accepted 5,000 euros in return for the information.
Ansa news agency said NATO documents were among documents which exchanged hands, raising potential security concerns for other members of the Western military alliance.
Italy immediately summoned the Russian ambassador Sergey Razov and expelled two Russian officials believed to be involved in the affair.
However, statements from Moscow suggested Russia was keen to play down the incident. The Russian foreign ministry said though it regretted the expulsions, but that they did not threaten bilateral relations.
Russia’s Interfax news agency quoted a Russian lawmaker as saying Moscow would reciprocate for the expulsions, standard practice in such cases.