Italy’s Interior Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini recently commented to an American journalist, Lally Weymouth for the Washington Post, in an interview, just a matter of days following his visit with Russian Interior Minister, Vladimir Kolokoltsev, on a visit to Moscow, that the Crimean peninsula ‘legitimately belongs to the Russian Federation”, to which Weymouth responded that the 2014 Crimean referendum was “fake”. Salvini was quick to point out that the Ukrainian revolution was itself was a “pseudo-revolution” funded from the outside:
Q. You said that Russia had a right to annex Crimea?
A. There was a referendum.
Q. It was a fake referendum.
A. [That is your] point of view. . . . There was a referendum, and 90 percent of the people voted for the return of Crimea to the Russian Federation.
Q. What kind of referendum was it with Russian soldiers there?
A. Compare it to the fake revolution in Ukraine, which was a pseudo-revolution funded by foreign powers — similar to the Arab Spring revolutions. There are some historically Russian zones with Russian culture and traditions which legitimately belong to the Russian Federation.
When quizzed about his opinion about Russian President Vladimir Putin’s meeting with the American President, Donald Trump, the Italian politician responded that he views it as “a very positive sign”
Q. What did you think of the recent meeting between Presidents Trump and Putin?
A. It was a very positive sign — a rapprochement between the U.S. and Russia is good news for Italy and for Europe.
Additionally, when the subject turned to the sanctions imposed on Russia in response to the Crimean issue, and why Salvini wants to lift them, he indicates that they simply aren’t effective and that they aren’t beneficial for the Italian economy.
Q. Why do you want to lift the sanctions on Russia?
A. Because they didn’t prove to be useful, and according to the data, they hurt Italian exports.
The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry wasted no time in condemning Salvini’s remarks as having no basis in reality and being contrary to the “principles and norms of international law”.
“We condemn the position of Italian politics as not based on real facts and contrary to recognized principles and norms of international law.”
“We expect the Italian government once again to condemn Russian aggression against Ukraine, and the occupation of Crimea and Donbass.”
Salvini has a history of expressing opinions favorable towards normalizing relations with Moscow and the lifting of sanctions, and is apparently unswayed by the wave of Russophobia which has seemingly engulfed the rest of Europe.