In Italy, opposition legislators demanded on Thursday, July 12th, to have Deputy Prime Minister and leader of the League party, Matteo Salvini, appear before Parliament about allegations of collusion between Russia, and Salvini’s ruling League party.
Democratic Party legislators have pressed for a parliamentary inquiry, following media reports saying a secret meeting allegedly took place between Russian officials and Gianluca Savoini, a close aide to Salvini, the BBC reported.
Those present reportedly discussed an oil deal that would enable money to be transferred to the pro-Moscow League party, basically saying that a covert Russian oil sale scheme was being devised to fund the party.
The alleged proposal for the multi-million-euro plan was made last year after the League became a partner in Italy's populist coalition government, and ahead of the European Parliament elections in May.
Salvini has denied the allegations. He told reporters that the League party "never took a rouble, a euro, a dollar or a litre of financing vodka from Russia."
And Savoini explained to Italian media on Thursday July 11th that he met a group of unnamed businessmen, but also denies any wrongdoing.
In the past, Salvini has openly admired Russian President Vladimir Putin, and continues to vigorously advocate an end to European Union economic sanctions on Russia.
The opposition legislators not only want to question Salvini, and several others involved, they also want to hear from Savoini, Salvini’s aide and League associate who is close to the Russians and allegedly championed the proposed deal.
Asked what role Savoini has in the League, Salvini replied brusquely, AP reported. "I don't know. Ask him. It's ridiculous, all that I read in the papers," he said.
The League is the junior partner in a populist coalition with the 5-Star Movement that had led the Italian government since June 2018.
The Italian news agency ANSA said that Milan-based prosecutors had started looking into possible international corruption after the first story was published on the matter back in February.
The claims of Russian funding were described as worrying by opposition parties, and they urged an immediate explanation. “Rubles from Russia to the League? Salvini has to immediately clarify to parliament,” said Nicola Zingaretti, the centre-left Democratic party’s leader.