Russia expelled on Monday an Italian diplomat and called in Italy’s ambassador to its foreign ministry over what it said was a groundless move by Rome to expel 2 Russian diplomats last month.
The expulsion of only 1 diplomat – Italy’s deputy naval attaché – may signal a desire by Russia not to retaliate aggressively against a nation with which Moscow traditionally has had warmer relations than with several other Western countries.
The Italian foreign ministry said the Russian move was unjust and unfounded.
In March, Italian police said they had caught an Italian navy captain passing secret documents to a Russian military official in return for money.
The incident was the latest in a bout of spying accusations in recent months against Russian nationals in European countries.
Multiple former Soviet bloc countries have announced this month that they were expelling Russian diplomats, prompting Moscow to take retaliatory action.
Moscow’s biggest diplomatic row right now is with the Czech Republic, which expelled 18 Russian diplomats and ordered Moscow to remove most of its remaining diplomatic staff from Prague.
Prague accuses Russian intelligence of being behind a deadly explosion at an ammunition depot in 2014. Russia has dismissed the accusations as absurd.