Home » Deal with Putin’s party is off, reassures Salvini

Deal with Putin’s party is off, reassures Salvini

The head of the League argued that a memorandum of understanding tying his party with United Russia had effectively decayed after the invasion of Ukraine. He was reacting to a no-confidence motion which Parliament will vote on soon

Stepping back from Putin’s party. “As we have already reiterated, the purely political collaborative intentions of 2017 between the League and United Russia no longer have any value after the invasion of Ukraine […] Even in previous years, there had been no joint initiatives. The League’s line is confirmed by the votes in Parliament: it is regrettable that the Chamber has to waste time on useless and instrumental polemics triggered by the opposition.”

  • That’s an official note from the League, issued on Tuesday, right after opposition MP Carlo Calenda (leader of Azione) tabled a no-confidence vote on party leader and Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini over the matter.
  • Opposition MPs are arguing that he’s unfit for office, given that his party – which has enjoyed long-standing ties with Vladimir Putin’s own before sticking to a more Atlanticist line after February 2022 – is still officially bound to the Russian president’s via a memorandum of understanding.

The context. Signed in March 2017, the MoU stipulates that the League and United Russia would consult and exchange “information on current issues, international relations, exchange of experiences in the sphere of youth policies [and] economic development.” The document was automatically renewed in March 2022, just weeks after Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, and the League never took an official step back.

  • At the time, Mr Salvini – who opposed Western sanctions tied to the invasion of Crimes – had noted that the agreement stood out as the most important foreign deal the League had ever signed with a foreign party.
  • A year later, the MoU was compounded by another deal between the parties’ youth divisions, signed by a delegation of young League members, headed by MP Andrea Crippa, in Moscow.

What happens now. Parliament is expected to vote on the motion in a matter of hours, and most of the opposition party leaders have signalled their support – although it’s unlikely the majority will fail to support Mr Salvini. Members of Azione have rejected the League’s note and demanded written proof of the MoU’s termination. The group leader in the Chamber of Deputies, Matteo Richetti, stressed its automatic renewal clause and argued that “[Mr] Salvini’s ambiguities on Russia are far from clear.”

Walking back? The League leader appeared on Rai 2 on Tuesday night to reiterate the contents of the note. He attempted to put some distance between himself and Moscow and dispel any notion of closeness – recently reinforced by his apparent legitimisation of Russia’s sham elections, which he partially backtracked on.

  • “[Mr] Salvini’s words were clear. When [President] Putin attacks a state, it is clear that he can no longer be an interlocutor or an ally of the League,” told Mr Crippa to La Gazzetta di Mantova, arguing that relations between the two “were less frequent than those between Putin and Calenda.”
    • Mr Crippa did not take stock of the fact that the latter two had been in touch in institutional capacities, whereas the League’s contacts with United Russia were political in nature and scope.

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