Did Vladimir Putin bring down the Italian government? Suspicion abounds that he did

Former prime ministers call for inquiry into claims that Russia pressured Matteo Salvini into withdrawing support for governing coalition.

ROME 39 July 2022 • 3:43pm

Two former Italian prime ministers have called for an urgent investigation into claims that Russia had a role in bringing down the governing coalition by putting pressure on Matteo Salvini, leader of the hard-Right League party, to withdraw his support.

Enrico Letta, who is now head of the centre-Left Democratic Party, and Matteo Renzi, another former premier, called for an inquiry to be launched by the Italian parliament’s intelligence committee.

“Salvini must explain the relationship between the League and the Kremlin. We want to know if it was Putin who brought down the Draghi government,” said Mr Letta. “If that was the case, it would be of the utmost gravity.”

Italy’s fractious political landscape has been rocked by claims, first made by the daily newspaper La Stampa on Thursday, that an official from the Russian embassy in Rome pressed Mr Salvini on whether he would withdraw his support from the ruling coalition back in May.

The contact was reportedly between Oleg Kostyukov, an embassy political officer, and Antonio Capuano, an adviser to Mr Salvini who was behind an abortive attempt to send the League leader to Moscow in May on a “peace mission”.

La Stampa said it based its story on reports by the Italian intelligence services.

Mr Salvini called the claims “fake news”, insisting that while he believed that channels of communication should be kept open with Moscow, his party was “with the West and democracy.”

But the Italian foreign minister called the claims “deeply worrying.”

“I say to Salvini that he has to explain his relations with Russia,” said Luigi Di Maio.

The coalition, led by former European Central Bank president Mario Draghi, dramatically collapsed last week after the League and two other parties, including Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia party, withdrew their support.

The coalition led by Mario Draghi collapsed after three parties withdrew their support
The coalition led by Mario Draghi collapsed after three parties withdrew their support CREDIT: AFP

“What is there to clarify? The government was brought down by three pro-Putin parties,” said Carlo Calenda, the head of Azione, a small centrist party.

The collapse of the Draghi government, which had expressed a solidly Atlanticist line and was staunch in its support for Ukraine, was seen as advantageous to Putin because it undermines the solidarity of the Western alliance.

Both Mr Salvini and Mr Berlusconi have been on deeply friendly terms with Putin in the past, with Mr Salvini once posing in Red Square while wearing a t-shirt bearing a picture of the Russian leader.

The League and Forza Italia are expected to ally with Italy’s most popular party, the hard-right Brothers of Italy, led by Giorgia Meloni. Together they are likely to win the election on September 25.

The League’s alleged Russian links are unlikely to undermine the alliance – for now.

“Up to a certain point, Meloni may even be happy because this provides her with leverage regarding Salvini and Berlusconi. She is already positioning Brothers of Italy as the real guarantor of (Italy’s commitment to) Nato,” said Francesco Galietti, an analyst from Policy Sonar, a political risk consultancy.

“But beyond a certain point, this could just spiral out of control and Meloni is then left with radioactive bedfellows.”

Meanwhile, there were claims that Russia is using migrants and refugees as a weapon against Italy as the general election approaches.

Russian mercenaries in Libya are reportedly weaponising migrants against Italy
Russian mercenaries in Libya are reportedly weaponising migrants against Italy CREDIT: AP

Mercenaries from the Wagner Group in eastern Libya, allied with the forces of General Khalifa Haftar, are reportedly encouraging asylum seekers to try reach Italy.

The number of arrivals has spiked compared to previous years. In July so far, more than 11,000 migrants have reached Italy, compared with 8,600 in the same period last year and 7,000 in the same period in 2020.

The migrant boats are coming largely from Tobruk and Derna on the coast of Cyrenaica, the eastern part of Libya, according to La Repubblica newspaper.

An influx of migrants could alarm Italian public opinion and help the right-wing alliance, in particular Mr Salvini because he has been outspoken on the need to curb unauthorised arrivals.

“Libya is a cannon aimed at the election campaign. Migration is perhaps the most powerful weapon for anyone wanting to destabilise the country and interfere with the vote in September,” an intelligence official told La Repubblica.

2 comments

  1. “What is there to clarify? The government was brought down by three pro-Putin parties,” said Carlo Calenda, the head of Azione, a small centrist party.”

    Draghi; the only non-putlerite Italian ruler in decades has gone. It looks like another kremkrapper will replace him.
    The EU has three crypto-fascist putler-friendly countries: Austria, Italy and Hungary and two social democrat/socialist regimes that always side with putler : France and Germany. When France had a right wing president: Sarkozy, he turned out to be a Russian agent.
    Ukraine and Georgia must pursue France and Germany relentlessly through the courts after the war to get full compensation. They both worked feverishly to keep Ukraine and Georgia out of Nato and they both worked feverishly to give Georgian and Ukrainian land to putler.
    Furthermore, Germany deliberately made itself dependent on putinazi gas; thus funding the putler murder gang to the tune of €60bn/yr.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. “Did Vladimir Putin bring down the Italian government? Suspicion abounds that he did”

    Mafia land’s influence in Europe is stronger than many would guess. Although, this should be obvious when taking a close look at the disunity and disparity on the continent, regarding sanctions for mafia land and military help for Ukraine.
    Thus, I’m not surprised that this is happening in Italy. Especially in this country, the political system is corrupt and notoriously unstable.

    Liked by 4 people

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