ROME — Western sanctions against Russia are not working and are even hurting Italy, according to Matteo Salvini, the leader of Italy’s far-right League party, who suggests that allied countries should rethink their approach.
Speak on a conference of political leaders Sunday on Lake Como, Salvini claimed that the sanctions intended to punish Moscow for its invasion of Ukraine had in fact aided Russia, resulting in an export surplus of $140 billion, in the year ending July 2022.
“Should we defend Ukraine? Yes,” Salvini said. “But I wouldn’t want the sanctions to harm those who impose them more than those affected.”Read:Idaho murders – update: Police shoot down more rumours as university increases security for students’ return
Salvini’s comments come just weeks before Italians head to the polls on Sept. 25 for a national election in which a right-wing coalition with the League is expected to win. His comments could therefore raise concerns among other EU politicians about the future government’s determination against Russia, especially given that one of Salvini’s allies in the coalition, Giorgia Meloni, leader of the Brothers of Italy, has vowed to stand against NATO in harsh measures against Moscow.
Salvini said the League has supported measures to help Ukraine at both national and EU levels and that he would not break with Western allies if they continue to impose sanctions, but he also called on other leaders to reconsider their tactics.
“If we get into government, will we change alliances? No. We remain deeply, proudly and firmly rooted in a free and democratic West that is against war and aggression,” Salvini said.Read:Putin’s defence minister should consider suicide, Russian-installed official says
He argued that a European response is needed to calm energy prices or thousands of jobs could be lost. “We definitely need a European shield, like during COVID,” Salvini said.
The League leader has made similar comments and expressed doubts about sanctions in recent days, with critics claiming he is repeating a popular talking point used by the Russian government.
Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio of the rival party Together for the Future argued that Salvini is against sanctions to “do [Vladimir] Putin a favor,” and said his comments showed that Salvini and his allies were divided on the subject.
“The issue of sanctions is very clear in Italian law: they have no line,” Di Maio told Rai TV Mezz’Ora in Piu on Sunday.
Enrico Letta, the leader of the center-left Democratic Party, also accused Salvini of it Twitter Saturday from Putin’s work, citing a video by Salvini stating that sanctions hurt Italy more than Russia.
“I don’t think Putin could have said it better,” Letta said.