Russian ‘spy’ arrest tests Di Maio and Italy-Russia relations
NAPLES – Not only are Rome’s relations with Moscow being tested over the arrest in Italy of a Russian executive suspected of industrial espionage, the case marks one of the first challenges facing Luigi Di Maio in his new job as foreign minister.
Aleksandr Korshunov, 57, director for business development at Russian state-owned United Engine Corporation (ODK), was arrested on Aug. 30 as he arrived with his wife at Naples airport from Moscow.
The senior executive, who has been accused of embezzling intellectual property and General Electric documents to develop a domestic jet engine, was detained at the request of the U.S., Russia’s Interfax news agency reported.
President Putin warned the arrest was likely to have consequences for relations between Rome and Moscow.
“This is a very negative practice,” Putin said, referring to the act of arresting Russian citizens in a third country at the request of the United States.
“It puts pressure on our relationships. I say this without a hint of irony. We often see that there are no grounds for these hostile actions. I have every reason to believe this is often linked to competition,” Putin said.
Putin also claims the arrest of Korshunov, who was accused of “stealing some secrets,” was motivated by unfair competition.
“Our US friends are now saying that some Americans have gone to work for that company and that something has been stolen there,” Putin said. “We know that the ODK has created a new Russian engine. We have signed a contract with an Italian company for consultancy, it is a natural practice all over the world: it is a clear commercial work with European partners.”
Adding further intrigue, reports by Il Mattino that the case could be linked to a failed rocket launch just two months ago.
Fourteen rocket launches were said to have previously taken place without a hitch. But, on the 15th, something went wrong, with the vector losing speed, veering off course and finally, falling into the ocean.
According to official records, there wasn’t an Italian rocket in the viewfinder, but the cargo it was carrying – a Falcon Eye, the first satellite spy of the United Arab Emirates, Il Mattino reported.
The incident fuelled speculation that Avio, the company producing the rockets, may have been the victim of sabotage, given the failure of the rocket launch caused the company’s stock market price to tumble with strong repercussions for its reputation.