‘No respect’: Polish mayor confronts Italy’s Salvini over Putin support

Italian far-right leader Matteo Salvini, known for his admiration of Russia's Vladimir Putin, had a frosty reception on a trip to Poland amid the invasion of Ukraine.

'No respect': Polish mayor confronts Italy’s Salvini over Putin support
Przemysl's mayor Wojciech Bakun (L) confronted Italian League leader Matteo Salvini (R) during his visit to Poland on March 8th over his admiration and support for the Russian president in recent years. Photo by STRINGER / ANSA / AFP

A Polish mayor mocked Matteo Salvini on Tuesday for his support of Russia’s Vladimir Putin during a visit by the Italian far-right leader to meet Ukrainian refugees, a video shared by Italian media showed.

The leader of the League party, Salvini has been photographed on more than one occasion wearing T-shirts emblazoned with Putin’s image, and for years has written pro-Putin messages on his social media accounts.

On Tuesday, Wojciech Bakun, the mayor of the southeastern Polish city of Przemysl near the Ukrainian border, held a press conference in front of the train station in which he thanked Italian organisations for their support of Ukrainian refugees.

Bakun then said he had a “personal remark” for Salvini, who was standing at his side, according to a video widely published in Italian media.

“I have a gift for you. We’d like to go with you to the border and to a refugee welcome centre to see what your friend Putin has done, what the person whom you describe as your friend, has done to these people, who are crossing the border to the tune of 50,000 per day,” he said in Polish.

He pulled out a T-shirt printed with a black-and-white image of Putin on the front and the words “Army of Putin” underneath – a copy of a T-shirt Salvini was photographed wearing in 2014 in Moscow’s Red Square.

“No respect for you, thank you,” Bakun said in English, addressing Salvini.

The League leader sought to interrupt, saying “Sorry, sorry… we are helping refugees” in English before walking away.

A member of the crowd shouted after him in English, “You have a chance to condemn Putin right now”, while another shouted out in Italian “Clown, buffoon!” and “Go home!”

Like many other European far-right leaders, Salvini has come under pressure since Russia’s February 24 invasion of Ukraine for his attitude towards Putin.

In 2015, after Italian President Sergio Mattarella argued for a common European response to migrants arriving in the Mediterranean, Salvini wrote on social media that “I’d give up two Mattarella for half a Putin”.

While interior minister in 2019, Salvini tightened laws on immigration and obtaining Italian citizenship, and blocked several charity ships carrying migrants and refugees from docking at Italian ports.

Since the invasion of Ukraine, however, Salvini has called on Italians to open their doors to refugees.

“Salvini intends to work to help the arrival and welcome in Italy of children, women and families fleeing the war,” the League said of Salvini’s trip to Poland.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


Italy’s government to continue sending weapons to Ukraine in 2023

Italy's new government issued a decree on Thursday to continue sending weapons to Ukraine through 2023, continuing the previous administration's policy of support to Kyiv.

Italy's government to continue sending weapons to Ukraine in 2023

The decree extends to December 31, 2023 an existing authorisation for “the transfer of military means, materials and equipment to the government authorities of Ukraine,” according to a government statement.

Since taking office in October, Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni has repeatedly voiced her support for Kyiv while underlying the importance of the Atlantic alliance.

In her first speech to parliament, the leader of the Brothers of Italy party pledged to “continue to be a reliable partner of NATO in supporting Ukraine.”

Her predecessor Mario Draghi was a staunch supporter of Kyiv, but the issue of sending arms to Ukraine split the biggest party in parliament during his coalition government, the Five Star Movement.

That friction led to the early elections that brought Meloni to power.

Parliament now has 60 days to vote the decree into law.

READ ALSO: Outcry in Italy after Berlusconi defends Putin’s invasion of Ukraine

Despite Meloni’s efforts to reassure her Western allies of Italy’s support for the EU’s and NATO’s Ukraine strategy, including sanctions on Russia, the close ties to Russia of her two coalition partners have come under scrutiny.

Both Matteo Salvini of the League party and former premier Silvio Berlusconi, who leads Forza Italia, have long enjoyed warm relations with Russia.

In October, an audio tape of Berlusconi was leaked to the media in which the former premier described how he had received a birthday present of vodka from Russian President Vladimir Putin.

In the tape, he also expressed concerns about sending weapons and cash to Kyiv and appeared to blame the war on Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky.

Berlusconi later issued a statement saying his personal position on Ukraine “does not deviate” from that of Italy and the EU.

Since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, Salvini, too, has come under fire for his relations with Moscow, including a report that he dined with Russia’s ambassador to Rome just days after that country’s invasion of Ukraine.

Salvini, who has criticised EU sanctions as ineffective, has long admired Putin, even wearing T-shirts emblazoned with the Russian leader’s face.