01/20/2012 12:26 EST | Updated 03/20/2012 05:12 EDT

Jeffrey Delisle Spy Case: Russia Embassy Diplomats Expelled By Ottawa Over Alleged Espionage

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OTTAWA - Media reports say Ottawa has expelled four Russian embassy staff in connection with a Canadian naval officer accused of passing secrets to a foreign power.

Although the reports say the claim is being denied by the Russian Embassy, and Canada's Foreign Affairs minister won't comment, the Globe and Mail and CTV News say they've learned a number of Russian embassy staff have left Canada over the alleged spy affair.

Earlier this week, Sub-Lt. Jeffrey Delisle was charged with communicating information to a "foreign entity" and is now in custody in Halifax.

The Globe says the names of two Russian diplomats — including a defence attache and two technical staff — have been dropped from the Department of Foreign Affairs' official list of diplomatic, consular and foreign government representatives.

The federal government has publicly refused to confirm or deny reports that the foreign power Delisle is accused of sharing information with could be Russia.

The Globe and CTV say the Russian embassy in Canada is dismissing the suggestion its diplomats or staff were expelled in reprisal for the Delisle case.

The media outlets report the embassy is saying any departures were part of a normal rotation of employees on foreign postings.

The Globe cites the embassy saying the staffers in question returned home at the end of 2011.

Both outlets report Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird refusing to comment on the matter.

CTV cites sources saying Canada is publicly downplaying Russia's role in the matter to avoid a tit-for-tat escalation that could see Canadian diplomats expelled from Russia.

Delisle, 40, spent almost his entire career in intelligence and, at one time, worked in the military's nerve-centre at National Defence Headquarters, defence officials have said.

He was charged Monday with passing secrets to a "foreign entity" under Canada’s Security of Information Act, in the first case of its kind.

The case against him has been adjourned until next week by a Halifax judge.

Court documents say one of the alleged offences happened between July 6, 2007, and Jan. 13, 2012, while the other is alleged to have happened between Jan. 10, 2012, and Jan. 13, 2012.

Delisle also faces a breach of trust charge under the Criminal Code for an incident that allegedly occurred between July 6, 2007, and Jan. 13, 2012.

All the offences are alleged to have happened in or near Halifax, Ottawa and Kingston, Ont.

Court documents relating to charges against Jeffrey Paul Delisle