Russia Monitor is a review of the most important events related to Russian internal and external security, as well as its foreign policies.
Date: 06 April 2021
Russian Espionage Scandal in Italy
Two Russian diplomats flew back to Moscow on April 1 as Italy expelled them shortly before. Employees of the Russian embassy’s military attache were involved in a spy scandal as an Italian naval officer was detained on March 30 on spying charges, marking the most serious espionage incident since the Cold War. This may bring severe consequences since Italy is one of the countries within the European Union and NATO with the warmest relations with Russia. Another nation having such a cordial link to Russia is Bulgaria whose authorities smashed a Russian spy ring a dozen or so days ago.
The navy captain, identified as Walter Biot, 54, passed secret files to a Russian military attache in return for cash. He was detained on March 30 after police had caught him allegedly selling secret files stored on a flash drive to an employee of the Russian embassy’s military attache in return for €5,000 in cash. The Russian, an embassy official, was also detained but avoided custody thanks to diplomatic immunity.
If convicted, Biot faces a minimum of 15 years in prison. His wife told journalists from one of Italy’s biggest newspapers that she had been unaware of her husband’s alleged actions, adding he might have done so as he was desperate to support their large family and repay the mortgage. All signs are that he handed over sensitive military documents to the GRU. Two Russian diplomats were expelled from the country, said Italy’s chief diplomat Luigi Di Maio on March 31.
Russia’s foreign ministry expressed “regret” for the expulsion of two members of its military attache office, hoping the incident would not affect relations between the two countries. The two Russian officials named as Dmitry Ostroukhov and Alexei Nemudrov flew back to Moscow on April 1. The espionage incident involving Russian diplomats may introduce strains into Italy-Russia relations, all the more so that Italy is one of few EU states with cordial ties with Moscow. Mario Draghi, Italy’s new prime minister, is a proponent of a robust Euro-Atlantic alliance, with his stance toward Russia being far more moderate than that adopted by his predecessor, Giuseppe Conte.
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