Merkel accuses Salvini of criminal collusion with Russia

“Some questions arise here,” she said. “We have constantly monitored the very strong support that right-leaning parties have received from Russia in one way or the other.”

Merkel added: “This is a cause for concern.” Italy should clear up whether the nationalist League party sought or received funding from Russia, Merkel explained on Friday.

“Clarification is up to Italy,” she said. “I think that the Italian parliament or others will ask for clarification on the affair”.

Premier Giuseppe Conte has said he is willing to report to the Senate on July 24 over suspicions a person close to the League party discussed taking funding via oil kickbacks from Russia, Russian news agency TASS reported.

Deputy Premier, Interior Minister and League leader Matteo Salvini has refused to report to parliament specifically about this case, saying he is willing to talk about everything during his regular question-time session.

Salvini denies that his party has taken a rouble from the Russians and described the case as “ridiculous”. On Wednesday Salvini reiterated that he would not make time for a session specifically on the affair. “I don’t report on fantasy,” he said.

However, he has since said he may discuss the case of one of his associates with parliament before Premier Conte does. The main suspect in the case is one of the associates of Salvini, head of the Lombardy-Russia Association Gianluca Savoini.

Milan prosecutors opened a probe after reports that Savoini met with two other Italians, lawyers Gianluca Meranda and Francesco Vannucci, and three Russians in a Moscow hotel to discuss siphoning off an alleged 65 million euros from oil profits.

The Minister has denied inviting Savoini to take part in two bilateral meetings with Russian President Vladimir Putin recently.

Police placed Meranda and Vannucci under investigation on Wednesday and searched their homes. But claims of Russia bankrolling Lega won’t put Italian government at risk, Salvini said.

Milan’s prosecution launched a case based on the publications on the US BuzzFeed website and in the Italian L’Espresso weekly news magazine shedding light on the alleged financing Lega has been receiving from Russia, qualifying the case as “international corruption”.

According to the prosecution, his voice can be heard on the BuzzFeed published audio recording of an alleged conversation with Russian entrepreneurs with ties to the Kremlin, during which a possible oil supply contract was discussed.

Both Salvini and Savoini have denied the allegations.

The accusations against Salvini surfaced as Germany is facing an uphill battle in its propaganda war to support migrant trafficking NGOs. Saving migrants at sea was a “humanitarian imperative”, Merkel also warned on Friday.

“We can’t continue with ad hoc solutions for every refugee landing,” she said. “Rescuing is not only a duty, it is a humanitarian imperative,” she said.

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