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Audio Proposes secret plan for the Russians to fund the party in Italy's Salvini

ROME – Sounding coffee cups at Moscow's luxurious Metropol hotel last October, a close help to Matteo Salvini, Italy's most powerful politician and prominent leader of Europe's nationalists, sat for more than an hour with a few Italian colleagues and some Russian officials.

Unknown to them, Italian reporters saw them in the hotel, and in February they published an account in an Italian magazine that claimed that coffee clerk was busy negotiating a complicated plan to secretly fund Mr Salvini's hard right league party with Russian money ahead of the European elections.

The report fascinated analysts and liberal politicians, but its overshadowed ancestry and Mr Salvini's continued denial led to the issues diminishing, as did Mr Salvini's opinion polls and the full support of President Vladimir V. Putin in Russia. But on Wednesday, Buzzfeed News announced a sound that seemed to confirm the Italian version of the meeting.

The recording was the second to come to light in just months that seemed to reveal how Mr. Putin has actively tried to destabilize the European Union by strengthening nationalist, populist parties such as the League. In May, the Austrian government dropped a video that revealed the leader of Austria's right wing, who discussed public contracts in exchange for Russian campaign support.

Currently in Italy, where Mr. Salvini seems to be immune to political damage, the sound does not seem to threaten his grip on power. But it raised new questions about Russia's willingness to interfere in Europe, and the will of pro-Russian nationalists to accept this help.

"The financing of a foreign state by an Italian political party is illegal," said Emanuele Fiano, an Italian parliamentarian in the opposition democracy, who on Wednesday invited Mr Salvini to appear at the lower house to explain the economic negotiations that were heard about the tape.

"It is also dangerous to know that an Italian party has a cooperation agreement with a foreign state," he added in an interview.

Two former Prime Ministers of the Democratic Party also called Wednesday for an official inquiry.

Herr. Salvini, who is Italy's Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister, declines again on Wednesday and takes any kind of financing from Russia.

"I have already sued earlier, and so do I today, tomorrow and the following, & # 39; & # 39; Mr. Salvini replied in a statement." I never took a ruble, a euro, one dollar or one liter of vodka in Russia's funds. "

In the recorded sound that could not be independently controlled, Gianluca Savoini, Mr. Salvini & # 39; s longtime aide, had unofficial connection to Russia and a strong advocate of a nationalist resurgence throughout Europe can be heard to speak.

" Next May, the European elections will be," he said. & # 39; & # 39; We want to change Europe. Russia as before, because we want our sovereignty. "

After some more similar sweeping comments, he let his colleagues come to business and postpone to" our technical partners who can continue this discussion. "

The technical part, first reported by the Italian magazine "Espresso" and detailed in the sound of Buz zfeed, included discussion of how money could secretly be drawn into the war castle of Mr. Salvinis party. [19659002] In a year, a named Russian oil company – through intermediaries – would sell at least 3 million tons of fuel to Italy's oil giant Eni for about $ 1.5 billion.

Asked if Mr. Salvini knew about the apparent suggestion, replied Iva Garibaldi, Salvini's spokeswoman: "He said he would sue them. What do you think it means?" She declined to comment directly on whether Mr Salvini knew about the negotiations at the Metropol hotel.

On the day before the hotel meeting, Mr. Salvini from the journalists' eyes after a news conference for many hours, and Espresso reported that he met Dmitry Kozak, the Russian Deputy Prime Minister responsible for energy policy. The meeting was not on Mr. Salvini's public schedule.

Mr. Savoini himself also refused to have an agreement.

"We never took a penny from Russia ever. No agreement with anyone," he wrote in a text message on Wednesday. "I didn't suggest anything. Salvini knew nothing because there was no suggestion."

In February, Mr Savoini told the Kremlin-sponsored news business, Sputnik Italia, "I did not participate in any debate." [19659002] But on Wednesday, he acknowledged in a text message that he was in the hotel lobby, but did not remember who he was with during the meeting because "it was full of Italians and Russians that morning. Everywhere in the hotel and also there talked to me. "

Stefano Vergine, co-author of The Black Book of League, who first revealed details of the February meeting in an excerpt in the" Espresso ", did not think much of the denials of Mr Salvini and Mr Savoini never to receive money from Russia.

"This was of course not the problem," Vergine said in an interview. "The question was that his guy was negotiating the financing."

At present, it did not seem sufficient to create a real political headache for Mr Salvini.

In part, this is because nobody is surprised by Mr Salvini's admiration for Mr Putin, who is largely respected in Italy as a strong man, especially among conservatives.

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