The Soviet government newspaper Izvestia tonight said France had ousted an unspecified number of Soviet diplomats and officials on false charges.
Izvestia published a dispatch by the official news agency Tass saying that "a few days ago the French authorities ordered a number of employes of the embassy and other Soviet missions in France to leave the country."
The dispatch said Moscow had lodged strong protests here and in Paris over what it described as "the absolutely arbitrary action" taken by the French government "without any grounds and under obviously fabricated pretexts which are totally at odds with reality."
The Soviet authorities were apparently surprised by the mass expulsion. Sources here said privately they believe the decision by Mitterrand constituted a "political attack" on the Soviet Union rather than any discovery of a major spy ring.
The Soviets were considering their response, but it is generally believed here that the retaliatory steps will be restrained.
Moscow is believed to be carefully weighing its options, particularly with respect to the participation of the Communist Party in the French government. Any Soviet retaliatory move is believed to involve considerations not to complicate the position of the French Communists.
It was said here privately that Mitterrand's government will have to provide evidence corroborating its charge that the 47 Soviet officials had engaged in extensive espionage. It is also said that the French may have difficulty producing convincing evidence that would justify the mass expulsions.
According to this line of argument, the failure to produce evidence would help Moscow's expected rebuttal, which is likely to center on the charge that Mitterrand staged the show to divert attention from his domestic political and economic difficulties and to gain favor with the United States and conservative public opinion.
Although the Soviet retaliatory steps are expected to be limited, there is little doubt here that Mitterrand's action has angered the Russians and that it is likely to damage Soviet-French relations.