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Italy’s Salvini under fire over failed Russia trip

Italian right-wing firebrand Matteo Salvini is on the defensive over aborted plans to visit Moscow in late May as part of a trip paid for by the Russian government.

The Russian embassy in Italy said on social media over the weekend that it had purchased Aeroflot tickets for a trip from Istanbul to Moscow for Salvini and his entourage as sanctions against the Russian government over its war on Ukraine made it difficult to make travel bookings from within the EU.

Salvini, once an outspoken admirer of Russian President Vladimir Putin, claims that he planned to visit Moscow as part of efforts to stop the war. The trip never took place due to widespread criticism from within the Italian government, of which his League party is a part.

“The embassy assisted Matteo Salvini and the people who accompanied him in buying plane tickets they needed in rubles through a Russian travel agency,” Moscow’s embassy in Rome said in a statement. “We don’t see anything illegal in all these actions.”

The embassy said that the costs of the flight tickets had since been refunded.

Salvini has said in recent days that he planned the trip to Moscow “out in the open” and wanted to use the visit to try to stop the war. It has also been reported that Salvini met with Russia’s envoy to Italy shortly after the country’s invasion of Ukraine began.

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