Russian funding claims spice up Italian elections

  • Prominent Italian politicians deny funding by Putin
  • The US says Moscow funneled $300 million to parties worldwide
  • The right-wing coalition will win Italy’s September 25 vote

ROME, Sept 14 (Reuters) – US claims that Russia has given at least $300 million to political parties in more than two dozen countries rocked Italy’s election campaign on Wednesday, with right-wing leaders denying they secretly received cash .

The US State Department on Tuesday released a summary of a recent US intelligence analysis of Russian efforts to influence foreign policy, including support for unnamed far-right nationalist parties. Continue reading

Although the countries involved were not named in detail, the report revived longstanding and repeatedly debunked suspicions that some Italian parties received funds from Russian President Vladimir Putin.

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Italy is holding national elections on September 25 in which a right-wing alliance of parties including Italy’s brothers Liga and Forza Italia are expected to win a comfortable victory.

“Before September 25, Italian voters have the right to know whether any of the parties on the ballot papers were funded by Putin,” Enrico Letta, leader of the center-left Democratic Party (PD), wrote on Twitter.

Putin’s invasion of Ukraine has made him an outcast to many in the West.


League leader Matteo Salvini, who once praised Putin as “the best statesman in the world,” has repeatedly denied receiving any money from Russia after a recording by one of his aides was leaked in 2019 detailing a secret oil deal spoke in Moscow.

“I never asked for money, rubles, euros, dinars or dollars from Russia and never took it,” Salvini told Radio RTL 102.5 on Wednesday. “Investigations have been going on for years. Nothing was ever found because there is nothing.”

The leader of the Brothers of Italy, Giorgia Meloni, who is poised to become the next prime minister, also denied receiving cash from abroad and threatened to sue an Italian newspaper that had questioned whether it was receiving Russian money had accepted.

“You should bring us the evidence. But since the evidence isn’t there, I’m afraid a lawsuit will be inevitable,” she told Radio 24 on Wednesday.

A senior Brothers of Italy politician, Adolfo Urso, who heads the parliamentary committee that oversees national intelligence, told state broadcaster RAI that “at the moment” there was no indication that Italy was one of the countries involved.

Since the collapse of Prime Minister Mario Draghi’s unity government in July, there have been repeated hints that Russia could interfere in the election campaign. Continue reading

A trio of parties, including the Lega and Forza Italia, all with historically friendly ties to Moscow, overthrew Draghi’s government but dismissed accusations by opponents that they had duped with Russia to hold snap elections.

Draghi himself told parliament in July that Italy must “intensify its efforts to combat the interference of Russia and other autocracies in our politics”. He did not give any further details.

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Additional reporting by Alvise Armellini; Edited by Andrew Cawthorne

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