'Those who play war with Putin are idiots': Salvini

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Northern League leader Matteo Salvini is courting Russia. Photo: Gabriel Buoys/AFP
15:35 CET+01:00
Matteo Salvini, the leader of Italy’s far-right Northern League, said on Wednesday that sanctions against Russia were senseless and are having a damning effect on Italian businesses.

In August, the Russian government announced a year-long ban on food imports from the EU, US and other countries, in response to sanctions against Moscow over the annexation of Crimea.

Speaking to journalists in Rome, Salvini said that those who "play war" with Russian President Vladimir Putin are “idiots”.

“Italian businesses are desperate, they’ve lost years of work," he added.

"Nobody understands the motives for the sanctions." 

Salvini, who’s quickly becoming a rising force in Italian politics, was speaking two days after a trip to Moscow as he progresses with efforts to strengthen political relations between his party and Russia.

“On Monday I was in Moscow, not to ask for money, as some journalist wrote, but because we have have a political vision of Europe that’s different from today’s, and one that’s not passed by Brussels.”

Salvini also praised his French counterpart Marine Le Pen, the leader of the National Front, saying that Italian politics “lacks a woman like her”.

Le Pen’s party recently admitted receiving a €9 million loan from a Russian bank close to Putin.

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But he stressed that the European alliances do not mean “a change of skin” for the Northern League.

La Repubblica reported last week that Salvini will return to the Russian capital in January for a meeting Putin, although Salvini was quoted in Il Messaggero on Monday as saying no date for a meeting has been set.

The pair met briefly in Milan when Putin attended the Asia-Europe (Asem) summit in October.

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