Lt.-Col. Dmitry Fedorchatenko, one of the embassy staff reportedly expelled from Canada.
Credits: Department of National Defence
OTTAWA - The Russian foreign ministry has denied reports four of its embassy staff members in Ottawa have been expelled from Canada for their part in an alleged espionage operation that involved a Canadian naval intelligence officer.
ITAR-TASS, Russia's state-run news agency, carried the denials.
"Allegations that the arrested officer was allegedly passing secrets to Russia as well as the information about the expulsion of staffers of the Russian Embassy in Ottawa, who in reality left Canada last year within the framework of planned rotation at the end of their mission, cause bewilderment," ITAR-TASS quoted Russian foreign ministry sources as saying.
But that claim doesn't mesh with publicly available information put out by Canada's foreign affairs department.
This month, a list of diplomatic personnel still included the names of two of the four people reportedly kicked out of Canada, Lt-Col. Dmitry Fedorchatenko and Konstantin Kolpakov.
Those names were left off the updated daily list of embassy personnel published in Ottawa on Thursday.
Officials in Moscow have also questioned the integrity of Canadian reporters.
"Let the reporters spreading these conjectures have them on their conscience," ITAR-TASS quoted its sources as saying. "If the Canadian side really makes any unfriendly steps against Russia and its representatives, we will not leave them without an adequate answer."
The growing scandal began earlier this week, following the arrest of naval intelligence officer Sub.-Lieut. Jeffrey Paul Delisle in Halifax on suspicion of leaking military secrets to foreigners.
Delisle worked at the Royal Canadian Navy communications centre in Halifax called HMCS Trinity.
The facility tracks ship traffic in the Atlantic, along with Maritime intelligence from allies and civilian agencies, such as the Coast Guard.
Delisle is in custody awaiting a Jan. 25 bail hearing.