“We express regret over the expulsion of two staff members of the Russian Embassy from Rome,” TASS quoted the foreign ministry as stating on Wednesday.
The decision by the Italian government, the Kremlin said, “does not correspond to the level of bilateral relations.”
Earlier in the day, Italy announced the “immediate expulsion” of the two diplomats in the wake of the arrest of an Italian navy captain accused of giving out “confidential documents” to a Russian military officer in exchange for money.
The frigate captain, who reportedly worked at the office of Chief of the Defense Staff, was arrested on spying charges after a “clandestine meeting” with the Russian late on Tuesday in Rome, Italy’s police said in a statement.
The Russian Foreign Ministry says it will announce its “possible next steps” in regard to the expulsion.
Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio summoned Russia’s Ambassador Sergey Razov on Wednesday morning to lodge a formal protest. The minister notified the ambassador of the “immediate expulsion of the two Russian officials involved in this very serious affair.”
Italy is one of the countries within the European Union and a NATO member with the warmest relations with Russia.
Russia’s Embassy in Rome has said, “In any case, we hope that what happened will not affect the bilateral relationship between Russia and Italy.”