Canada won't confirm expulsion of Russia diplomats

Fri Jan 20, 2012 7:33am EST
 
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OTTAWA (Reuters) - Ottawa on Friday declined to confirm media reports that it had expelled four Russian embassy staff after authorities in Canada arrested a Canadian navy intelligence officer and charged him with spying.

The Globe and Mail newspaper said two diplomats and two technical staff at the Russian embassy had been dropped from the official list of diplomatic, consular and foreign government representatives recognized by Ottawa.

A spokesman for Prime Minister Stephen Harper declined to comment. Authorities have not said who the intelligence officer was supposedly spying for.

A Russian embassy official denied the four had been expelled, telling the newspaper that they had left Ottawa after coming to the end of their postings.

This week Canadian authorities charged Navy Sub-Lieutenant Jeffrey Paul Delisle with giving "a foreign entity" secret information between July 6, 2007 and Jan 13, 2012. He was arrested in Halifax, Nova Scotia and will stay in jail until his next hearing on Jan 25.

Delisle is the first person charged under a new secrecy law enacted after the September 11, 2001, attacks.

Canada's Conservative government has had poor relations with Moscow since it took power in 2006, complaining about "increasingly aggressive Russian actions around the globe" and reconnaissance flights which approach Canadian airspace.

The two nations are jostling for influence in the mineral-rich Arctic region.

(Reporting by David Ljunggren; Editing by Vicki Allen)