'European Trump': Russians Planned to Funnel Oil Money to Italy's Salvini Because He Is 'Head of All the Ultra Right'—Report

A group of Russians allegedly planning to funnel oil money to the League party in Italy for it to use as campaign funds in the recent European Parliament elections referred to its leader Matteo Salvini as the "European Trump," according to a report.

BuzzFeed News said it obtained a recording of a meeting between three Russians and three Italians at a hotel in Moscow, including Salvini's close associate and former spokesman Gianluca Savoini, who now heads a pro-Russian cultural institute in Italy.

According to the transcript, the men discussed ways to channel money to the League ahead of May's European Parliament elections, which, if followed through on, would break Italian rules on party financing.

They also discussed the importance of Russia supporting far-right parties in Europe, and one of the Russians described Salvini as the de facto leader of these insurgent nationalist and populists across the continent, comparing him to U.S. President Donald Trump.

"He is Italian, not Italian, but the European Trump, because he has now become the head of all the ultra right [in Europe]," one of the Russians, whose identities are unknown, said of Salvini, according to BuzzFeed's transcript of the recorded conversation.

It is not clear if the detailed and complex oil deal, potentially worth tens of millions of dollars to the League, ever went through. Salvini, who is pro-Russian, was also in Moscow on a visit at the time of the talks, but did not attend, and it is not known if he was aware of the meeting.

The Italians joked with the Russians, who spoke of dealing with the deputy prime minister in relation to the proposed oil deal, about sending people to gulags for "mental rehabilitation."

Savoini told the Italian publication Adnkronos that no money came to the League from the Russian sources mentioned in the BuzzFeed article, describing the report as "all words and blablabla."

The Russian government did not respond immediately to Newsweek's request for comment.

Salvini is deputy prime minister and interior minister in the Italian government, which is comprised of a fragile coalition between the League and the populist Five Star Movement party.

However, his popularity is rising, and he hopes to command with the League a full majority government after the next election.

The party is unashamedly nationalist and anti-immigration. Salvini has made the migrant crisis a cause celebre for his party by refusing to allow vessels carrying migrants and refugees rescued from the Mediterranean Sea to dock at Italian ports.

At May's European Parliament elections, the League came out on top, winning 34.3 percent of the vote in Italy and securing 23 seats.

Salvini is also linked to Steve Bannon, Trump's former campaign manager and chief White House strategist, who founded a Brussels-based foundation called The Movement to support nationalists in Europe.

Matteo Salvini Italy Trump Russia
Italian Deputy Premier and Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, leader of the far-right League party, holds a press conference at the Ministry of the Interior on June 26, 2019 in Rome, Italy. Stefano Montesi - Corbis/Getty Images

This article was updated with a comment by Savoini.

'European Trump': Russians Planned to Funnel Oil Money to Italy's Salvini Because He Is 'Head of All the Ultra Right'—Report | World
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