Salvini to answer Lega-Russia allegations in parliament

Deputy PM Matteo Salvini with President Putin. Image credit: Il Giornale

GENOA - Interior Minister Matteo Salvini will report to parliament over alleged plans to use Russian oil money to finance the League, he told journalists Tuesday. “I certainly will go to parliament,” said the League strongman indicating a marked change in his stance, according to local sources.

 Salvini had previously refused to address the questions, stating he would not speak about money he did not take. Today’s development came as Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte added his voice to the chorus, which includes Deputy Prime Minister Luigi Di Maio and Democratic party Leader Nicola Zingaretti, calling for Salvini to address the chamber over the alleged meeting between League representative and Russians in October last year.  

 "That is my job. I go bi-weekly and for the question-time session, during which I respond about all human knowledge, always,” he said in Genoa.

 Salvini has repeatedly denied taking money from Russia. "I have already sued for libel in the past, I'll do so again today, tomorrow and the day after tomorrow,” he said last week. "I've never taken a rouble, a euro, a dollar or a litre of vodka in funding from Russia."

 A transcript published by American online media agency Buzzfeed last week recorded a discussion between three Russians and three Italians, including Gianluca Savoini who is alleged to be close to Salvini. The men refer to a “great alliance” and the possibility of channelling tens of millions of dollars from Russian oil to the Italian party.

 Salvini denies inviting Savoini to two bilateral meetings with Russian President Vladimir Putin during his recent visit to Rome. A statement from the Palazzo Chigi explained the presence of Savoini at the dinner hosted for Putin, saying that he was automatically invited because of links with Claudio D’Amico, one of Salvini’s councillors.

 Savoini, President of the Lombardy-Russia Association was questioned by Milan prosecutors Monday night but exercised his right to remain silent. He will answer questions when a public prosecution case has been opened, rather than to a “journalistic investigation transferred to the judiciary,” said Savoini’s defence lawyer Lara Pellegrini.

 Milan prosecutor Frencesco Greco said there was “absolutely” no need to question Salvini, adding that there would be a “long, complex, difficult” investigation to come.

 The deal as discussed in the published transcript would be illegal under Italian law, where political parties are banned from receiving funding or support from foreign governments or entities.