Salvini said he would use any means possible to convince European partners to scrap sanctions brought in over Russia's annexation of Crimea in 2014 and subsequent activity in the east of Ukraine.
“Vetoes are only a last resort but I am not excluding anything,” he told a press conference. “Italy is the European country that has suffered the most from these sanctions against Russia.”
He said he wanted to create opportunities for small- and medium-sized businesses in the two countries to work together. Russia banned most food imports from the EU in 2014 as a counter-measure to the Ukraine sanctions.
Salvini also said Russia's return to the G7 would be “absolutely legitimate”. US President Donald Trump made a similar suggestion last month.
Italy's new Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said in June that his government favoured a “revision” of economic sanctions against Russia.
Questa mattina incontro bello e utile a Mosca con il ministro dell’Interno russo, Vladimir Kolokoltsev. pic.twitter.com/09SZnj8JP4
— Matteo Salvini (@matteosalvinimi) July 16, 2018
Salvini on Monday met representatives of the state Council for Russian National Security. They discussed opportunities for cooperation between Italy and Russia including in “the fight against Islamic terrorism” as well as illegal immigration.
“This morning I had a beautiful and useful meeting with Russia's interior minister, Vladimir Kolokoltsev,” tweeted Salvini soon after. Most bilateral issues discussed focused on security, added Italy's interior minister.
The day before the Italian minister attended the World Cup final in Moscow. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban was also in Russia for the game, and denounced EU sanctions during a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Salvini said the Italian prime minister would travel to Russia to meet Putin “in the second half of October”.