Did Italy’s Interior Minister receive a million-dollar gift from Russia?

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A media report suggests that Russia wanted to finance the right-wing extremist Lega in Italy. Party leader Salvini denies the accusations.

An audio recording on the news site BuzzFeed News could have uncovered a dubious oil deal between Italian politicians and Russia. According to the report, money from Russia should be given to the right-wing extremist Lega for the European election campaign.

The tape is from 18 October 2018, recorded in a Moscow hotel. Three Russians, three Italians” can be heard, as the BuzzFeed journalist Alberto Nardelli reports.

One of the men is Gianluca Savoini, a close confidant of Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini and party leader of the extreme right-wing Lega party. The deal provides for the sale of oil worth around 1.5 billion US dollars to the Italian energy company Eni.

The Russian oil company’s rebates should leave 65 million US dollars. According to an Italian interlocutor, the company could use the Lega to finance its European election campaign.

Salvini denies accusations

Savoini is described in the Italian media as Salvini’s “Sherpa for Russia”. According to BuzzFeed, he uses a WhatsApp avatar who shows him shaking hands with Putin. The Russian men, who according to BuzzFeed are not identifiable on the photos, enthusiastically describe Salvini as the “European trump”. Whether the Lega ever received any of the Russian oil money is still unclear.

So far Salvini vehemently denied having accepted foreign money to finance his party. “I have lamented it in the past, I will do it today, tomorrow and the day after tomorrow: I have never taken a ruble, a euro, a dollar or a litre of vodka in financing from Russia,” he said on Wednesday.

The Italian weekly magazine “L’Espresso” published a report in February suggesting that money had flowed from Russia for Salvini’s European election campaign. Salvini also rejected that the Lega had received money from Russia. (with dpa)

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Mette Frederiksen is a The Washington Newsday correspondent. With her coverage of general science, NASA and the interface between technology and society, Frederiksen has been in the Science Desk's Technology Beat since joining Washington Newsday in 2018.

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