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Salvini says Moscow won't 'minimally' affect vote

Haven't been to Russia in years, never forged economic accords

(ANSA) - ROME, AUG 19 - Rightwing League leader Matteo Salvini said Friday that Russia won't "minimally" affect the September 25 general election in Italy a day after Russian security council deputy chair Dmitri Medvedev urged European voters to punish their "stupid" governments.
    Salvini, who said he was running in Milan, said "Russia won't influence the vote of the Italians in the slightest.
    "Workers, housewives, students and pensioners will choose with their own heads.
    "If there really are people on the Left who think that foreign countries can condition the vote of the Italians they are lacking in respect towards the Italians".
    "Let's let the Italians vote".
    Former Russian president and current deputy chair of its national security council Medvedev on Thursday urged Europeans to punish their governments for their "stupidity".
    Medvedev, right-hand man to Russian President Vladimir Putin, said on telegram, "we'd like to see European citizens (at the polls) not only expressing their malcontent for the actions of their governments...but also punishing them for their evident stupidity".
    He added "the voters' votes are a powerful lever of influence".
    The outgoing national unity Italian government led by Premier Mario Draghi fully backed Western sanctions against Russia for its invasion of Ukraine as well as sending arms to Kyiv.
    Even the only major opposition party, the post-fascist Brothers of Italy (FdI), took a strongly pro-NATO and pro-EU stance over the war.
    Two parties in the Draghi government who had previously lauded Putin, Matteo Salvini's League and Silvio Berlusconi's Forza Italia (FI), also unequivocally condemned Russian aggression.
    FdI leader Giorgia Meloni, who is poised to become Italy's first post-fascist and first woman premier after September 25 according to current opinion polls, had also previously praised the Russian strongman.
    The centre-left Democratic Party (PD) on Thursday strongly urged all the right and centre right leaders to condemn Medvedev's "high tackle" intervention into the Italian general election campaign.
    It also called on the League to severe its ties with Putin's United Russia party, with whom it formed a relationship on a visit to Moscow by Salvini in 2017 when the nationalist Italian leader said of the Russian one that "I admire him and respect him".
    On Friday Salvini said he had not been to Russia for years and had not contacts with Russian politicians for years.
    "I haven't been to Russia for years and I haven't had contacts with Russian politicians for years. I'm busy with Italy," he said.
    "I hope the (Italian) Left doesn't spend another 30 days speaking of (this), about Martians and insults".
    He said the Left had "done business and drafted trade deals with Russia" in its postwar Communist heyday, when it was the second strongest party in Italy behind the long-dominant Christian Democrats.
    For decades the Italian Communist Party (PCI), a forerunner of the PD, received funding from Moscow and followed its line until the repression of the Hungarian uprising in 1956 and, even more so, the Prague Spring of 1968 when its embrace of its own 'Eurocommunism' accelerated.
    But payments from Russia to the PCI continued until 1984.
    Pressed by reporters on his own past and present relations with Moscow, Salvini replied: "I've never sealed economic deals of any kind with anyone".
    In other remarks Friday, Salvini said the probable next right/centre-right government would be able to afford the League's flagship policy of a flat tax, getting the cash from the abolition of a controversial 'citizenship wage' basic income which Meloni said earlier this week had "totally failed" in its stated aim of banishing poverty and creating jobs. (ANSA).


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