MADRID, Spain -- A Soviet Embassy official has been quietly expelled from Spain on charges of spying and three others may be kicked out soon, two Madrid newspapers said today.
The dailies El Pais and ABC reported the Soviet official was ordered out of the country recently, but said Spanish officials refused to disclose his name, job or date of expulsion.
The report followed Britain's expulsion Thursday of two Soviet diplomats and a Soviet journalist accused of espionage.
Both newspapers said three other Soviets may soon be ordered out of Spain. The Soviet Embassy declined comment.
ABC reported the Soviet had left Spain aboard an Aeroflot flight and said said there were unconfirmed reports that as many as three other Soviet officials suspected of espionage may have already been expelled.
Prior to the latest report, 10 Soviets had been ordered out of Spain since diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union were restored in 1977.
The British Foreign Office said the Soviet diplomats were found 'to have engaged in activities incompatible with their status,' a euphemism usually used to mean espionage.
Col. Gennadi A. Primakov, assistant air attache at the Soviet Embassy, was given seven days to leave. Sergei V. Ivanov, a second secretary now abroad, will not be allowed to return, the Foreign Office said.
A Foreign Office spokesman said Igor V. Titov, the London correspondent of the Soviet magazine New Times, had been found 'to have engaged in unacceptable activities,' and that if he still was in Britain in seven days 'appropriate measures would be taken against him.'
Ivanov was listed as a second secretary at the mission but diplomatic correspondents said his appearance with the Soviet ambassador at major events suggested a higher ranking and membership either in the KGB or in the Communist Party.
The Foreign Office said Titov was told to leave the country within a week or face 'appropriate measures.' Titov said his expulsion was 'absolutely ridiculous.'
The Foreign Office refused to comment on reports Titov had been covering the anti-nuclear protests in Britain this week.
In Moscow, Titov's editor, Mikhail Fyodorov, said the magazine considered Titov's expulsion 'a provocation.'
'Titov has long been a respected journalist who worked for Tass for a long time and then at the New Times with no questioning of his integrity,' he said in a statement.
Titov said he thought it was 'an early April Fool's joke' when the Soviet charge d'affaires told him he was being ordered out of the country.
'But he assured me it was no joke,' said Titov. 'It came as a complete surprise.
'I consider the whole thing as pure political provocation on the part of the government with Mrs. Thatcher at the head of it,' Titov said in a television interview.
The Foreign Office said the Soviet Union would not be allowed to replace the diplomats or the journalist.
The number of Soviet envoys allowed to work in Britain was cut drastically in 1971 when Britain ordered out 105 Russians, including 45 diplomats, for espionage.
There have been numerous other expulsions since. The Soviet naval attache was expelled last December and a Russian translator at the International Wheat Council was sent home in January.