Salvini heads to Russia, urges end of EU sanctions

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Rome, Oct 17 (IANS/AKI) Far-right Interior Minister and Deputy Premier Matteo Salvini flew to Moscow on Wednesday to head an Italian business delegation at a trade meeting, launching a fresh attack on the European Union over its economic sanctions against Russia.

EU sanctions against Russia had caused Italian businesses to lose “billions of euros”, Salvini said, calling the trade restrictions “a social, cultural and economic absurdity”.

“I am not going to Moscow because they pay me in roubles, as some have written, but because the problem is resolved with dialogue, not with embargoes,” he said.

Salvini, a long-time admirer of Russian President Vladmir Putin, has pledged to work to ensure the sanctions against Russia were lifted through “good manners, numbers and the art of democracy”.

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But he has warned that Italy’s populist coalition government was “not scared” of using its veto powers in the EU as a “last resort” to push the bloc into lifting sanctions against Russia.

Brussels imposed sanctions on Russia in 2014 over its annexation of Crimea and is likely to move to renew them when they expire at the end of January.

The measures include financial restrictions, an arms exports embargo, travel bans and freezes of the assets of named individuals and organisations.

Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte, who is due to meet Putin in Moscow next week, has also slammed the sanctions, saying: “They damage our companies, which we intend to protect, as well as Russian society.”

–IANS/AKI

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