Two Soviets Expelled for Alleged Spying Activities
ROME (AP) _ The Italian government has ordered two Soviet officials to leave the country, Soviet authorities here said Wednesday. Italian media reported they were accused of spying.
In an official communique, the Soviet Embassy confirmed the expulsions of Viktor Kopytin, a first secretary of the embassy who has lived in Rome since September 1984, and Andrei Chelukhin, Rome station chief of the Soviet airline, Aeroflot.
The two men had been declared persona non grata by the Italian government, the embassy said, charging that the actions came ″without any valid reason.″
Italian news agencies quoted unidentified Italian Foreign Ministry officials as saying the two Soviets were declared persona non grata for alleged espionage activities.
Kopytin left Italy earlier Wednesday, the news agencies said, while an Aeroflot spokeswoman said Chelukhin was still in Rome. She said she knew nothing of the expulsion order against Chelukhin, who had worked there for about three years.
A Foreign Ministry spokesman told The Associated Press the Italian government would not confirm or deny the report, but added: ″You can draw proper conclusions from this.″ The official spoke on condition he not be identified.
Officials at the office of Premier Bettino Craxi referred all queries to the Foreign Ministry.
The development came two days after France announced the expulsion of four Soviet diplomats. The Soviet Union immediately retaliated by ordering four French diplomats to leave Moscow by the end of the week.
The Soviet Embassy statement noted recent ″concrete steps ... to increase and develop the mutually advantageous relations between the Soviet Union and Italy on various levels.″
It charged that the expulsions were initiated to ″cast shadows″ on such developments.
The relationship between the two nations has been mostly cordial, with Craxi visiting Moscow last year and discussions under way about a possible trip to Italy by Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev this spring.
Yet there have been strains. The ouster brings to 11 the number of Soviet diplomats and officials expelled from Italy on spying charges since 1970.
In a report to Parliament last month on intelligence activities, Craxi said Italian law enforcement authorities identified about 70 foreign spies operating in Italy during a six-month period ending Nov. 22.
He gave no breakdown of the nationalities of the alleged spies or what the government intended to do about them.
A U.S. State Department report released Feb. 4 said 57 Soviets were expelled for alleged espionage activities from six countries in 1985, compared to 19 in 1984.