Russia hopes Italy ties can be 'preserved' despite spy row
"We don't have information about the reasons for or the circumstances of this detention. But in any case, we hope that the very positive and constructive nature of Russian-Italian relations will continue and will be preserved," Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told reporters.
The Italian, a middle-ranking officer serving as a frigate captain, was caught red-handed after a "clandestine meeting" with a Russian late Tuesday in Rome, according to a police statement.
Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio said in a statement that Rome had lodged a formal protest with the Russian ambassador and notified him of "the immediate expulsion of the two Russian officials involved in this very serious affair".
Russia has recently seen its diplomats expelled from several European countries including France, Bulgaria, Austria and Norway over spying allegations.
Moscow in each instance has responded by denying accusations its diplomats engage in espionage and in tit-for-tat moves announced the removal of an equal number of European diplomats from embassies in Moscow.
The foreign ministry said in a statement Wednesday carried by news agencies that it "regretted" Rome's decision to expel Russian diplomats.
"We will separately announce our possible next steps in connection with this action that does not correspond to the level of bilateral relations," the statement quoted by the Interfax news agency said.