Pro-Putin Journalist Rails Against Italy on TV After Having Villas Seized

Vladimir Solovyov, a presenter on Russian state television who is an ardent supporter of President Vladimir Putin, railed against Italy on air after having three of his villas in the Mediterranean country seized over the Ukraine war.

In early March, Solovyov was among the Russian oligarchs whose villas—three properties on Lake Como in northern Italy—were confiscated by Italian police. One of the villas was set on fire on April 6, while a second villa he owns near the lake had its walls daubed with spray paint and red paint was also poured into the water in its swimming pool.

The Carabinieri police said they were investigating the fire, which is suspected arson, and the spray-painting without providing more details.

On Russian state television on Wednesday, Solovyov criticized Italian oil company Eni for what he perceived as its hypocrisy. The company initially rejected the Russian government's condition of paying for gas in rubles during the conflict. But it has now backtracked and agreed to open a ruble account with Gazprombank as a precaution to ensure its next payment for Russian gas due in "the next few days" goes through.

After the EU imposed sanctions on Russia over its invasion of Ukraine, Moscow demanded that it be paid in rubles for oil starting April 1. But the bloc warned that European companies who pay for gas this way would be breaching sanctions.

"In that respect, I liked the Italians when Eni said, 'Us? In roubles? No, no, no! Forget about it! It will never happen! Dimentica tutti!'" Solovyov said on state television.

"And then all of a sudden, 'Oh la la! Where can we open an account? Look, roubles, we're ready!'"

"According to the EU's instruction," another host chimed in, laughing.

"According to the EU instruction, yes, and then immediately, 'It's all ok!'" Solovyov replied.

The issue is more complex than Solovyov makes out, because Eni is effectively still paying in euros to avoid sanctions. They just have euro and ruble accounts, and Gazprom does the currency swap itself.

Solovyov then criticized Italy for forgetting about Russia's "aid" to Italy during its first wave of COVID-19, where they sent a team of what Moscow said were doctors.

However, those "doctors" are increasingly believed to have been sent on a spy mission, and Italy is currently investigating this.

The pro-Putin presenter fails to mention this in his rant.

"By the way, Italians, do you remember who helped you during coronavirus? No? The ordinary people remember," he said.

"But all of you there, who've holed up in the government, who are now opening your mouths, and are starting to have a go at Russia...Do you remember? Super Mario! Mario Draghi! The unelected prime minister [of Italy]," he added.

"Does he actually realize what the people of Italy really think? Or as is often the case, does it not bother anyone? Because Europe is now governed by people elected in practice by nobody."

Newsweek has contacted Italy's foreign ministry for comment.

Russian President Vladimir Putin declared his "special military operation" in Ukraine on February 24, initially with the intention of capturing the capital Kyiv. However, the Russian army failed in its aims as Ukrainians put up a strong resistance, leading Putin's forces to focus their attention on the East in the Donbas, as well as Ukraine's southern port towns on the Black Sea. Russia has captured the southern port city of Mariupol, but its army's progress elsewhere in the Donbas has stalled.

The war has killed thousands of people, including many civilians, and displaced millions more.

Putin and Solovyov
Russian President Vladimir Putin (L), TV journalist and writer Vladimir Solovyov (C) and NTV Chief Alexei Zemsky (R) are seen during the reception honoring the 25th anniversary of Russian State Television and Broadcasting Company VGTRK on May 13, 2016 in Sochi, Russia. Solovyov railed against Italy on air after having three of his villas in the Mediterranean country seized over the Ukraine war. Mikhail Svetlov/Getty