Italy expels suspected Russian spies

An Italian navy frigate captain has been caught in the act of handing secret documents to a Russian military official, as a result of which Italy has expelled two Russian diplomats. Italian newspapers discuss whether the affair will mark a turning point in relations between Rome and Moscow, which have so far been relatively relaxed by European standards.

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La Stampa (IT) /

A chance for Rome to prove how European it is

Italy should use the incident as an opportunity to take a clear stance vis-à-vis Russia, says La Stampa:

“Italy now has the opportunity to take a leading role at the European level that it hasn't had in a long time. For a decade Rome has wavered in its relations with Moscow. It was reluctant to impose sanctions over the Ukrainian affair and in subsequent years to confirm them at the European level. ... In short, Italy cannot confine itself to calling Moscow's occupation of Crimea 'unacceptable'. It must reverse the perspective and lead the European front in imposing sanctions on those who violate rights. That would be a step forward.”

Corriere della Sera (IT) /

Diplomatic relations at a crossroads

For Corriere della Sera it's not at all certain that Rome will now seek confrontation with Moscow:

“It was not a matter of course that Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio would publicly call the acquisition of secrets a 'hostile act'. Or even that Italy would expel the two Russian diplomats, giving them only 24 hours to leave our national territory. ... This is a political decision. ... This case marks a balancing act in which relations between Italy and Russia could go in two different directions: either they will deteriorate at an unusually rapid pace or they will remain - with the help of some diplomatic acrobatics - better than those other Nato states have with Moscow.”