Romania banishes a Russian diplomat

An employee of the Russian embassy in Romania has been banished from the country. This follows the arrest of a Romanian diplomat accused of spying in Moscow.

On Tuesday, just a day after the arrest of Romania’s high ranking diplomat Gabriel Grecu in Moscow, a Russian diplomat of the same rank of first secretary was obliged to leave the country within 48 hours. His name, however, has not been revealed.

Moscow denounced the move, saying Bucharest seems determined to "poison the atmosphere" in Russian-Romanian relations.

Russia's Foreign Ministry said it reserves the right to take retaliatory measures.

"Unlike the first secretary at the Romanian Embassy in Moscow – who was caught red-handed, who had material and spy equipment which fully exposed his illegal activities – the Russian diplomat was not involved in anything that could give reason for such decisions," the ministry said.

Earlier the caretaker official of Romanian affairs in Russia was summoned to the Russian Foreign Ministry, where Russia’s protest over Grecu’s actions was expressed to him. The official was also informed that Grecu was named a persona non grata and had two days to leave Russia.

The Romanian Foreign Ministry condemned the actions against the diplomat, calling them “a violation of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.”

Meanwhile, Grecu has already left the territory of Russia, writes Interfax agency citing its source in diplomatic circles.

He was detained in the Russian capital on August 16 while attempting to get secret defense information from a Russian citizen. It is believed the alleged spy who worked under diplomatic cover was interested in the dislocation of Russian troops in Transdniester – Moldova’s breakaway region – writes daily newspaper Moskovsky Komsomolets (MK). However, the paper notes citing counter-intelligence agents, the information was no secret.

Grecu’s agent – a Russian serviceman – who was providing data in exchange for money was also detained. Reportedly, it was thanks to him that the spy was actually exposed. It happened after, in addition to open political information, Grecu forced the man “to pass documents containing military secrets to him.”

“Understanding that the Romanian intelligence officer was inducing him to commit high treason, he voluntarily reported this to the FSB [Federal Security Service] and expressed his willingness to help security agencies prevent the diplomat's unlawful activities,” the FSB told Interfax.

Having analyzed the documents Romanian intelligence was interested in, Russia’s special services came to the conclusion that the country’s security would be seriously harmed had they been obtained. A decision to put an end to Grecu’s activities was made.

The arrest took place in a supermarket where the spy and the agent used to exchange data recorded on flashcards left in lockers. Two FSB special squad officers took part in the operation as it was feared that Grecu –who is skilled in martial arts – would put up resistance.

Now the Russian security service is analyzing “connections of Romanian spies among Russian citizens.”

According to the FSB, Russian counterintelligence services took notice of Grecu’s predecessor – Romanian diplomat Dinu Pistolea – back in 2008 when he tried to hire the Russian citizen who possessed relevant information on the situation in Moldova and Transdniester due to his professional activities.

“The diplomat proposed that the Russian pass analytical materials on the situation in Moldova and Transdniester to Romania and report information characterizing and compromising top-ranking officials and leading policymakers from the unrecognized republic to Romania for payment,” the FSB is cited as saying by Interfax. After Pistolea’s mission to Russia was over, Grecu continued contacts with the Russian agent.