Italy: Salvini aide behind lobbyist presence at Putin dinner

U.S. & World
Giuseppe Conte, Vladimir Putin

Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte, right, and Russian President Vladimir Putin pose for a photo at the Chigi palace in Rome, Thursday, July 4, 2019. Putin emphasized historically strong ties with Italy during a one-day visit to Rome that included a meeting with Pope Francis. (Alexei Druzhinin, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

ROME (AP) — The Italian premier’s office on Sunday distanced itself from a lobbyist who is under investigation for allegedly seeking Russian money for Interior Minister Matteo Salvini’s pro-Moscow League party, saying the man attended a recent dinner for visiting Russian President Vladimir Putin only because a Salvini adviser intervened on his behalf.

Premier Giuseppe Conte’s office issued the statement after it said it was flooded with requests for information about the presence of Gianluca Savoini at a dinner the Italian leader hosted for Putin on July 4 at a Villa Madama, an exclusive hilltop government palazzo designed by Renaissance artist Raphael in the 16th century.

Savoini has been under investigation in Italy for allegedly seeking millions of dollars in financing for the League since the Italian newsweekly L’Espresso reported that he had discussed the plan with Russian officials in Moscow last year, a few months after the League became a partner in Conte’s populist government.

“Conte personally doesn’t know Mr. Savoini,” the statement said, adding that those invited to the dinner included all those who participated in an Italian-Russian dialogue forum held in Rome a few hours earlier at the Italian foreign ministry.

Conte’s office said it looked into how Savoini wound up at the dinner and determined that his involvement in the forum was arranged by Claudio D’Amico, an adviser to Salvini and that the dinner invitation “was an automatic consequence of his participation in the forum.”

An open admirer of Putin, Salvini for years has advocated for the end of European Union sanctions on Russia, imposed for Moscow’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine. He says the sanctions hurt Italian businessmen.

Salvini, who also serves as interior minister, has insisted that neither he nor his right-wing party has ever taken “a ruble” from Russians.

The League is the junior partner in Conte’s year-old coalition government. Salvini’s rival deputy premier, 5-Star Movement leader Luigi Di Maio, pressed Sunday for a parliamentary inquiry on political party financing.

Opposition lawmakers are clamoring for Salvini’s resignation.

Savoini lobbies for closer Italian-Russian ties through an association based in Lombardy, the affluent northern Italian region which is a League stronghold.

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

CBS47 On Your Side

Do you have a problem that you need help solving? Contact CBS47 and let us be On Your Side.

Phone: 559-761-0383

Don’t Miss

Sunday Service
Best of the Valley
Sunday Morning Matters
MedWatch Today
Hispanic Heritage
Bulldog Insider: The Podcast
The Valley's Armenia
Pros Who Know

Images from Armenia

Small patients in Armenia
Yerevan by night.
Dr. Jeff Thomas delivers.
Dr. Jeff Thomas delivers in Gyumri.
Doctors unpack medical supplies from The Central Valley.
Fresno Medical Mission at work.
Medical Supplies being unloaded.
Fresno Medical Mission at the ready.
KSEE24 crew witnesses the miracle of life in Gyumri, Armenia.
Life saving work of Central Valley surgeons in Armenia.
Ribbon cutting on new surgical center in Ashtarak Armenia. Fresno donors made this dream come true.
KSEE24 on assignment with the Fresno Medical Mission
Honorary Consulate to Armenia Berj Apkarian explains the crisis facing one hospital.
KSEE24's Stefani Booroojian and Kevin Mahan at the meeting with President Bako Sahakyan.
Medical Meeting in Artsakh.
The President of Artsakh meets with the Fresno Medical Mission.
Learning modern medicine techniques with the Fresno Medical Mission in surgery.
Leaning in for a look. Dr. Brien Tonkinson holds class and helps a patient in Armenia.
Fresno Medical Mission cares on one of the smallest patients in the region. Six-year old Yanna receives life-changing better breathing surgery.