Russia Tried To Funnel Millions To The “European Trump”

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Russia Tried To Funnel Millions To The “European Trump”

Postby seemslikeadream » Wed Jul 10, 2019 11:12 am


Revealed: The Explosive Secret Recording That Shows How Russia Tried To Funnel Millions To The “European Trump”

A close aide to Italy's deputy prime minister Matteo Salvini held covert talks to pump Russian oil money to his far-right party. BuzzFeed News has the tape.

Alberto Nardelli
BuzzFeed News Europe Editor
Posted on July 10, 2019, at 6:00 a.m. ET

Six men sat down for a business meeting on the morning of October 18 last year, amid the hubbub and marble-columned opulence of Moscow’s iconic Metropol Hotel, to discuss plans for a “great alliance.”

A century earlier, the grand institution was the scene of events that helped change the face of Europe and the world: Czarist forces fought from inside the hotel as they tried and failed to hold the Bolsheviks back from the Kremlin in 1917, and it was here, in suite 217, that the first Soviet Constitution was drafted after the revolution succeeded.

The six men — three Russians, three Italians — gathered beneath the spectacular painted glass ceiling in the hotel lobby last October had their eyes on history too. Their nominal purpose was an oil deal; their real goal was to undermine liberal democracies and shape a new, nationalist Europe aligned with Moscow.

BuzzFeed News has obtained an explosive audio recording of the Metropol meeting in which a close aide of Europe’s most powerful far-right leader — Italian Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini — and the other five men can be heard negotiating the terms of a deal to covertly channel tens of millions of dollars of Russian oil money to Salvini’s Lega party.

The recording reveals the elaborate lengths the two sides were willing to go to conceal the fact that the true beneficiary of the deal would be Salvini’s party — a breach of Italian electoral law, which bans political parties from accepting large foreign donations — despite the comfort with which he and Europe’s other far-right leaders publicly parade their pro-Kremlin political sympathies.


United World International / YouTube / Via
Gianluca Savoini

“We want to change Europe,” said longtime Salvini aide Gianluca Savoini — who dined alongside Vladimir Putin at a government banquet to celebrate the Russian president’s visit to Rome last week. “A new Europe has to be close to Russia as before because we want to have our sovereignty,” he continued over the clinking of coffee cups and buzz of conversation around the lobby.

As well as releasing excerpts of the Metropol tape — the existence of which is being revealed for the first time today — BuzzFeed News is also publishing a transcript of the entire recording.

Salvini — described enthusiastically by the Russians on the tape as the “European Trump” — did not attend the meeting himself, but he was in Moscow at the time. The previous day he gave a speech in which he denounced sanctions against Russia as “economic, social, and cultural folly” before reportedly meeting with the Russian deputy prime minister, Dmitry Kozak, and a powerful member of Putin’s United Russia party named Vladimir Pligin.

Although BuzzFeed News has been unable to identify the Russians at the Metropol meeting, the tape contains clear indications that high-level government figures in Moscow were aware of the negotiations — including those with whom Salvini had reportedly met the previous evening. The Russian negotiators can be heard referring to “yesterday’s meeting” without specifying the attendees, saying twice that they would have to feed details back to the “deputy prime minister,” and explaining they were hoping to get the “green light” from “Mr. Pligin” the following week.

The Lega leader has vehemently denied ever receiving any foreign money to fund his party.

Alamy Stock Photo
Salvini and Russian President Vladimir Putin meeting in 2014.

But the Metropol tape provides the first hard evidence of Russia’s clandestine attempts to fund Europe’s nationalist movements, and the apparent complicity of some senior figures from the far right in those attempts.

While it’s unclear whether the agreement negotiated at the Metropol hotel was ever executed, or if Lega received any funding, the existence of the recording of a detailed negotiation raises serious questions about whether Italian laws were broken, the links between Moscow and Salvini’s Lega party, and the integrity of May’s European elections.

European politics has been shadowed for years by the suggestion that Russian commercial transactions with far-right leaders had a hidden political purpose.

Wolfgang Rattay / Reuters
From left: European far-right leaders Frauke Petry (Germany); Marine Le Pen (France); Salvini; Geert Wilders (Netherlands); Harald Vilimsky (Austria); and Marcus Pretzell (Germany) onstage in Koblenz, Germany, Jan. 21, 2017.
French National Rally leader Marine Le Pen took €11 million in loans from Russian banks, including one close to the Kremlin, in 2014 — a year after she publicly backed Putin’s annexation of Crimea — but insisted the deal was commercial, not political.

Ahead of Britain’s EU referendum in 2016, Brexit’s biggest financial backer, Arron Banks, discussed gold and diamond investment deals offered via the Russian Embassy in London that promised vast profits. Banks, who is currently being investigated by the UK’s National Crime Agency over the “true source” of £8 million he donated to the Leave.EU campaign, has said he ultimately declined the offers and repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.

The leader of Austria's far-right FPÖ party, Heinz-Christian Strache, was forced to resign in May after being caught in a sting in which he was filmed discussing the exchange of public contracts for Russian campaign support. The leaked video was published by the German news outlets Süddeutsche Zeitung and Spiegel, though it remains unclear who set up the sting.

The Metropol meeting bears all the hallmarks of a real negotiation rather than a sting. And while questions remain unanswered about Russia’s previous financial maneuvers with nationalist figures, the recording offers X-ray clarity on the Kremlin’s relationship with the powerful Italian Lega party, and a clear model for how exactly Russia uses commerce to mask naked exchanges of money and power.

Alexander Nemenov / AFP / Getty Images
Hotel Metropol in central Moscow.
Opening the discussion in faltering English, Savoini, who has been described in the Italian media as Salvini’s “sherpa to Russia” and who uses a picture of himself shaking hands with Putin as his WhatsApp avatar, was explicit about the grand political ambition behind the proposed deal.

“Salvini is the first man that want[s] to change all of Europe,” he declared. Victory at the European elections taking place the following May would be just the start.

Listing nationalist “allies” across the continent like France’s Le Pen and Germany’s far-right Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) party, the 55-year-old Italian, who can be heard later on the tape describing himself as the “connection” between the Italian and Russian political sides, concluded: “We really want to begin to have a great alliance with these parties that are pro-Russia.”

Obtained by BuzzFeed News

The Russian response was positive. They can be heard describing Salvini, who is also Italy’s interior minister, as the “head” of Europe’s resurgent ultra-right nationalist movements, stretching from Italy in the south to Sweden and Finland in the north.

The negotiation — which lasted for an hour and 15 minutes, interspersed with cigarette breaks and fueled by espressos — would involve a major Russian oil company selling at least 3 million metric tons of fuel over the course of a year to Italian oil company Eni for a value of around $1.5 billion. The buying and selling would be done through intermediaries, with the sellers applying a discounted rate to these transactions.

The discount would be worth around $65 million, based on fuel prices at the time, according to calculations provided to BuzzFeed News by industry analysts, and it is this money that would be secretly funneled to the Italian party via the intermediaries.

The participants were clear that the purpose of the deal and the discount mechanism at its heart was to support Lega, in particular its European election campaign.

“It’s very simple,” one of the two other Italian men said some 25 minutes into the meeting. “The planning made by our political guys was that given a 4% discount, 250,000 [metric tons] plus 250,000 per month per one year, they can sustain a campaign.”

At the time of the meeting, a loophole in Italian law meant that it was legal for parties to accept money from foreign donors. But the maximum amount that could be taken by a party was €100,000 — a fraction of the tens of millions Lega stood to receive under this covert arrangement.

In January this year, new legislation closed the loophole, making it illegal for Italian parties to receive any funding or support from foreign governments or entities.

Savoini can be heard telling the other Italian participants that he had a “good feeling” about a deal materializing.

He and the other Italians repeatedly emphasized to the Russians that “quickness is of the utmost importance because elections are just around the corner” as they pushed for the first shipment to be in November.

Savoini can also be heard underlining to the other Italians the importance of keeping their relationship a tightly held secret. Describing the three of them as “a triumvirate,” he said they needed to be a “watertight compartment” and “more than prudent.”

The Italians were explicit that they were “not counting to make money” from the deal for themselves. The purpose was “not professional, it’s just a political issue,” one of the men told the Russians. “We count on sustaining a political campaign which is of benefit, I would say of mutual benefit, for the two countries.”

And in response to the Russians asking about extra “commission” for themselves — later euphemistically described as “an amount to be returned” to the Russians — Savoini made clear he was fine with them taking that cut. “They take even 400 or whatever the fuck they need to take,” he told his Italian colleagues later. “It doesn’t matter. It’s a guarantee. It means they will always do that and for us it’s OK.”

The recording blows apart statements issued by Salvini and Savoini after the meeting and some details of the negotiation at the Metropol were first reported in February by two Italian journalists, Stefano Vergine and Giovanni Tizian, in L’Espresso magazine.

At the time, Salvini’s spokesperson declined to answer questions about the Metropol meeting, dismissing them as “fantasies,” while Savoini told the Kremlin-backed news outlet Sputnik that he had not taken part in any negotiation. In a message to BuzzFeed News at the time, he described the story as “the plot of a fiction.”

On the recording, however, Savoini can be heard telling his colleagues that he was the “total connection” between the Italian and Russian sides, and that the other Italians were his partners. He said he’d been told this by “Aleksandr” — a possible reference to Aleksandr Dugin, a high-profile Russian far-right ideologue and political analyst, with whom Savoini had been photographed the previous day.

Approached by BuzzFeed News on Monday with a detailed set of questions about the Metropol meeting, Savoini wrote back: “Sorry but I don't have time to waste on these things,” adding that his lawyer would comment “if necessary.” No further response was received from Savoini or his lawyer.

The Italian journalists, who previewed excerpts from their book The Black Book of Lega in L’Espresso, also reported that Salvini met Russian Deputy Prime Minister Kozak on the evening of October 17 at Pligin’s office. The meeting did not appear on Salvini’s official schedule, which listed no engagements for that evening.

Asked in February about the reported meeting with Kozak, Salvini did not deny it took place. “I can’t remember what I did the day before yesterday,” he said in an Italian television interview. “It’s hard to remember what I did on October 17.”

He added: “If the meeting did take place, it would be absolutely legitimate, and indeed proper.”

BuzzFeed News made multiple attempts to get Salvini’s response to the Metropol recording and the suggestion that he was involved in setting out the terms of the deal. He did not respond.

On Monday, Kozak denied that he met with Salvini at Pligin’s office on October 17. Brushing aside detailed questions from BuzzFeed News, his spokesperson Ilya Dzhus said in a WhatsApp message, “We have already commented on the so-called ‘investigation’ of the Italian edition of Espresso, it is built on unsubstantiated speculation…”

He continued: “Kozak was never personally acquainted with Mr. Salvini, they did not hold any official or ‘secret’ meetings. ... Russia and Italy have a large block of bilateral economic cooperation, including in the energy and industrial sphere. Kozak, as the relevant deputy prime minister, is focused only on this agenda.”

In response to a letter sent on Monday morning, followed by multiple phone calls, Pligin's office told BuzzFeed News that he was traveling and they had been unable to reach him.

Presidency of the Council of Ministers
From left: Salvini, Putin, and Italian Deputy Prime Minister Luigi Di Maio in Rome, April 7.
Vladimir Putin has been able to count on Matteo Salvini’s unswerving and vocal support for years.

The Lega leader has repeatedly called for European Union sanctions against Russia to be dropped; he has described the annexation of Crimea as legitimate, even visiting the illegally occupied region in 2016.

He has also criticized NATO and the coordinated EU response to the Salisbury nerve agent attack by Russian military intelligence operatives in March 2018.

Vincent Kessler / Reuters
From left: Italian members of the European Parliament Gianluca Buonanno, Lorenzo Fontana, and Matteo Salvini attend a voting session on the European Union–Ukraine Association agreement in Strasbourg, France, Sept. 16, 2014. The slogan on the T-shirts says "No sanctions to Russia."

But it’s over the last 18 months that Salvini’s value as an ally to Putin has increased exponentially. His reinvention of Lega from a small regional force in the north of Italy to a nationwide, far-right, anti-immigrant party saw it win over 17% of the vote in the Italian general election in March 2018. Three months later, he became deputy prime minister and interior minister when Lega entered into a coalition government with the populist Five Star Movement.

Since then the party has grown to become the country’s dominant political force, doubling its vote to 34.5% in May’s EU parliamentary elections to become the most popular party in the world’s eighth largest economy. The result secured Salvini’s status in the vanguard of Europe’s nationalist far-right movements.

Putin and Salvini’s mutual admiration was on public display again last week during an official visit by the Russian president to Rome, where he praised the Lega leader’s “welcoming attitude towards our country.” After a government dinner for Putin, Salvini described him as “one of those characters who will leave his mark on history.” Also among the guests was Savoini, who tweeted a video of Putin, with Salvini in the shot over his shoulder.

Presidency of the Council of Ministers
Savoini (circled) is seen in the background at the government dinner for Putin hosted by Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte.

Salvini has been a remarkably frequent flyer to Moscow over the years. There were three trips in quick succession between October 2014 and February 2015, another in January 2017, followed by another two months later, and he has already traveled to the Russian capital twice on official trips since taking office just a year ago. On each occasion he has been accompanied by his unofficial Kremlin fixer, Savoini.

Savoini’s working relationship with Salvini spans two decades. He has been a member of the Lega party since 1991, and served as Salvini’s spokesperson. He helped organize all the Lega leader’s trips to Moscow and was central to enabling a partnership agreement between the Italian party and Putin’s United Russia in March 2017.

He is also the president of the Lombardy-Russia Cultural Association, which has consistently pushed pro-Kremlin propaganda since its foundation in 2014. The association’s website says its aim is to reflect Putin’s worldview based on identity, sovereignty, and tradition. Its activities have included contacts with officials and trade missions to Russia, annexed Crimea, and Donetsk, the region in eastern Ukraine under the control of Russia-backed separatists, as well as public events and lobbying to promote Kremlin-friendly policy and oppose sanctions.

Savoini’s precise status and role on official visits to Moscow remains unclear. BuzzFeed News reported in July last year that he had attended official meetings with Russian ministers and officials alongside Salvini, despite not being on the list of ministerial delegates. Savoini, who has no official government role, said he was there as a “member of the minister’s staff” and had known Salvini “since forever.”

The official reason for Salvini’s last trip to Moscow in October was to give a speech on the 17th at a conference organized by an Italian industry group. Savoini was at the event at the Lotte Hotel, where the Lega leader delivered his anti-sanctions message. Beyond this point, no official meetings appear on Salvini’s schedule, but it was that evening, according to L’Espresso, that the meeting with Deputy Prime Minister Kozak took place at Pligin’s office.

Nothing is known about Salvini’s movements the next morning, but just after noon Moscow time, he posted a photo of himself on Twitter and Instagram enjoying a beer and a hamburger at the city’s Sheremetyevo airport — the only public record of what he did that day before flying back to Italy.

View image on Twitter

Matteo Salvini
Spuntino dietetico in aeroporto a #Mosca, dopo aver incontrato imprenditori italiani e ministri russi, si riparte direzione #Bolzano!
Chi si ferma è perduto, vi abbraccio

4:07 AM - Oct 18, 2018

773 people are talking about this

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The Metropol tape obtained by BuzzFeed News, however, reveals in vivid detail how one of his most trusted aides spent that morning, as Salvini was preparing to leave Moscow.

Over the course of the meeting, Savoini, the other two Italians, and the three Russians discussed in fine detail the technicalities of the deal to channel millions to Lega, from the types of fuel required and the potential ports of delivery to “commission payments,” currency, and how to keep communications secure and transactions below the radar of the authorities.

The negotiations between the two sides were largely conducted in English, with each side repeatedly reverting back to Italian or Russian to confer among themselves because not everyone at the table spoke English.

BuzzFeed News has been unable to identify the five other men. One Italian was referred to as “Luca.” He led much of the technical discussion, described himself as a lawyer, and appeared to be based in London working for an unnamed English investment bank.

The other was called “Francesco,” only spoke Italian, and was at one stage jokingly referred to as “nonno” — granddad. He appeared to be responsible for figuring out the mechanics of getting the funding to Lega via the intermediaries, as well as the potential commissions.

On the Russian side, one of the three didn’t speak English, and mostly engaged through an interpreter. One of the individuals was addressed by Savoini and the others as “Ilya.” The names “Yuri” and “Andrey” can also be heard.

The Russians were clearly answerable to more senior figures outside the room, saying several times that they would have to discuss different aspects of the arrangement with “Mr. Deputy Prime Minister,” while “Mr. Pligin,” "the comrade," and "verkhniy" — Russian for “upper,” which appears here to refer to a higher-ranking official — can also be heard.

From the recording, it is clear that this was not the first time some of the six men had come together to discuss the proposed deal. At several points they referred to previous detailed conversations and meetings, including in Rome.

There was also lighter small talk among the men, such as conversations about holidays in Sicily and Sardinia. At one point, the Italians joked about wanting to send some people to the Russian “gulags” for “mental rehabilitation.” At another there was some banter about giving up smoking, with one of the Russians complaining about the graphic health warning images on cigarette packs in Italy, and an Italian joking that men in his country always ask for the one with the warning about not getting pregnant.

“Let’s close the deal and we stop together,” the Italian said.

“Deal,” the Russian replied.

But on the substance of the plan, both the Russians and the Italians, including Savoini, appeared serious and deeply immersed in the detail.

After his opening remarks about changing Europe, Savoini handed over to what he referred to as his “technical partners.”

"Now our technique papers are already made as they are ready to be given to Mr. Deputy Prime Minister," one of the Russians replied. "But we have to discuss latest decisions maybe," he added.



Obtained by BuzzFeed News
Most of the ensuing discussion centered on structuring the arrangement to find the right combination of oil companies, intermediaries, port of delivery, product type, payment terms, and timescale.

The proposed transactions would be structured around four firms: Italy’s Eni and a major Russian oil company — Rosneft and Lukoil are suggested — and two intermediaries.

"We have Eni who will be on the Italian side, yes?” one of the Russians said. “We have Russian oil company on our side, and we have two companies in the middle."


Obtained by BuzzFeed News
An Eni spokesperson told BuzzFeed News in an email: “Eni strongly reiterates that [it] in no way took part [in] transactions aimed at financing political parties. Moreover, the described supply operation never took place.”

The men explicitly discussed how to choose a second intermediary so that the deal did not come to the attention of European authorities by tripping “know your client” procedures and anti–money laundering laws.

The Italian referred to as Luca advised that it should be “a well-known company.” When one of the Russians asked whether it was better for the company to be in Russia or Europe, he replied: “Europe, definitely.”

They also discussed using the Russian arm of the Italian bank Intesa. An advantage of this option, one of the Italians explained to the Russians, was that Lega had "a man in there called Mascetti.”

The individual can then be heard telling the other two Italians: "We need to after this meeting talk to the guy who begins with ‘Ma’ and ends with ‘etti’ so that they meet after the fundamentals are closed. Why am I interested? Because Eni already has accounts with Intesa, and they [the Russian oil companies] do too probably."

One of the board directors of Intesa Russia is named Andrea Mascetti. He is a former senior member of the Lega party.

There is no suggestion in the recording that Mascetti or anyone else at Intesa was aware of the discussions that were taking place; nor is it known whether any officer of Intesa was contacted by any of the three Italians after the meeting at the Metropol.

In response to a request for comment from Mascetti, his lawyer told BuzzFeed News in an email that he strongly denied any knowledge whatsoever of the events as described and was “totally extraneous” to these.

The technical discussions covered the best ports of delivery, with Rotterdam, Novorossiysk in the Black Sea, and the Baltic route as the options put forward, though the Russians pointed out that there was limited capacity via the Baltic.

They also discussed the type of fuel to be sold under the deal, with the Russian acting as an interpreter inviting the Italians to provide options, which included aviation fuel and diesel, in a list. “We will give [the list] to the deputy prime minister," he said.

BuzzFeed News approached oil analysts to obtain an approximate valuation for the deal using one of the fuel options discussed, ultra-low sulfur diesel (ULSD). Between November 1 and November 30 last year, the wholesale value of ULSD delivered into Rotterdam, for example, ranged between $693.25 to $556.25 per metric ton, based on the industry-standard Platts benchmark used by oil companies.

That means 250,000 metric tons — the proposed first shipment — of ULSD would have been worth $173 million on November 1 and $139 million on November 30, so Lega’s 4% cut that month would have been worth at least $5.5 million. Over the course of 12 months, assuming similar prices, the party stood to receive about $65 million.

At one point, the Russians discussed among themselves how they needed to wait for Pligin, the lawyer who reportedly had hosted the meeting between Salvini and the Russian deputy prime minister the previous night, to give them the go-ahead to proceed.

“We need to tell them that we are expecting Vladimir Nikolaevich’s return. We are waiting for him. Hopefully we’ll get the green light next week,” one of the Russians told his colleague who was interpreting into English.

“We are waiting for Mr. Pligin to return when to discuss,” the interpreter then told the Italians.


Obtained by BuzzFeed News
The Italian lawyer said he had checked whether Pligin could fly to Italy and he believed it would be OK as he was “not on red alert in Interpol,” despite the fact that the Russian was named on an EU sanctions list.

One of the Russian men can then be heard saying — in Russian — that he had talked to Pligin and he didn't want to go to Italy. "We have to explain that to our Italian colleagues," one of the others said, but the information was not passed on.

The Russians were keen to generate extra “commission” payments for themselves, raising the possibility of future contracts beyond the one-year political arrangement.

Reiterating that the motivation for this deal was purely political, the Italian lawyer said only the 4% discount was required to fund the election campaign — so the Russians could take anything above that. "I would say they have made their plans on 4% net. So if you now say it’s 10% discount, I would say 6% is yours,” he said.

The Italians were far more concerned throughout the discussion with making sure the money was flowing to Lega in time for May’s elections. The man referred to as Francesco said to his Italian colleagues at one point: “I want to say how important it is to us to do this by December even if it is then delayed two, three months. June, July — we don’t care."

That message was underlined repeatedly in English to the Russians by the Italian lawyer. “If we are very quick — but we need to be very, very quick — then I think [the] first delivery might be in November," he said.

"I agree with you because we have to act very quickly," a Russian responded.

The Italian lawyer later reassured Savoini that the Russians had got the message. “Everything is OK. I told and Andrey agreed quickness is of utmost importance.”

But there was still concern that the first shipment could be delayed into late January. “If we are quick — now maybe first delivery in November. If we are not quick then — maybe it’s December. And then December, we know in Italy it’s Christmas and everybody is very lazy.”

Savoini replied: “In Russia too. In Russia, Christmas in January. Holiday Italian then Russian, we have one month of holidays — 15 December, 15 January, Italy and Russia together is holidays.”

He also voiced concern about not being able to do the deal in US dollars because of Russian currency restrictions, but was told by the Russians: “We can work in any currency.” It would only be a problem if the deal were between two Russian companies, they said, prompting the Italian lawyer to say that the deal could be done in euros and converted into dollars anyway.

Savoini seemed unconvinced, suggesting a smaller initial shipment if that was less risky, and repeating his concerns about dollar transactions.

“He is saying to put some attention on the financial transaction not to incur any problems," the Italian lawyer told the Russians. “Can I say yes, we will work on it?" the lawyer asked.

The Russian responded: “If we make it in one bank, for example Intesa, it will not be a problem.”

In another exchange, Savoini returned to the reason for the deal: the nationalist political project. “We are changing really the situation in Europe,” he said. “And it’s impossible to stop. The history is marching, so it’s impossible. It’s really a new deal, a new situation, a new future for us. We are in the center of this process.

“But we have a lot of enemies. We are in a dangerous situation because our government is attacked from Brussels, from the globalist men — not Trump but the establishment of Obama is very, very strong and inside in Italy too. We are in dangerous [territory]. It is not so simple, but we want to fight because we are in truth.”

Emanuele Cremaschi / Getty Images
A detail of an election poster in Milan picturing Salvini, May 26.
As the meeting drew to a close, both sides appeared to be optimistic about closing the deal. “Concerning the future contract, I think we have all the information,” one of the Russian men said in English. “I understand the urgency,” he added.

A few minutes later, the Italian lawyer listed all the follow-up items as he noted them down and promised to share a screenshot with the Russians.

“OK, gentlemen, I think it’s going in the right direction,” he said.

“And it’s my luck to make them act quickly and immediately,” his Russian counterpart replied.

“You will,” said the Italian.

By the time the bill arrived, the six men were in a buoyant mood. They can be heard joking over who should pay for the coffees. “This is not Rome,” one of the Russians said.

Savoini’s response was telling. Turning to one of his favorite slogans — based on a 16th-century doctrine that held the Russian Empire to be the successor to ancient Rome and Constantinople as the ultimate center of true Christianity — he replied: “Moscow is the third Rome.”

Tanya Kozyreva and Miriam Elder contributed reporting to this story.

Edmon de Haro for BuzzFeed News

Image ... -recording

To read a full transcript of the meeting click here.

BuzzFeed News has obtained an audio recording of a meeting on Oct. 18, 2018, at the Metropol Hotel in Moscow in which Gianluca Savoini, a close, longtime aide of Italy’s nationalist deputy prime minister, Matteo Salvini, and five other men — three Russians and two Italians — discussed the terms of a possible deal to secretly funnel around $65 million of Russian oil money to Salvini’s Lega party and its European election campaign.

This is the full transcript of the meeting, which lasted about an hour and 15 minutes.

BuzzFeed News contacted individuals named in the recording for comment, and their responses, where provided, are included in our main story on the Metropol tape. Read that here.

The six men can be heard speaking in English, Russian, and Italian. Where they spoke in Russian or Italian, the dialogue has been translated into English.

SAVOINI: It is very important that in this historical geopolitical period that Europe is changing. Next May will be the European election. We want to change Europe. A new Europe has to be close to Russia as before because we want to have our sovereignty. We want to really decide for our future, Italians, for our children, for our sons. Not depending on decision of illuminates [the enlightened] of Brussels, of USA. We want to decide. Salvini is the first man that want to change all Europe. Together our allies and colleagues and other parties in Europe. Freiheitliche Partei Österreichs in Austria, German Alternative für Deutschland, France Madame Le Pen, and other other countries the same, Hungaria with Orban, in Sweden Sverigedemokraterna. We have our allies. We really want to begin to have a great alliance with these parties that are pro Russia, but not pro Russia for Russia but for our countries. Because to stay well with Russia, good relations is for our countries. So this is my only beginning to the political situation. Now I want our technical partners who can continue this discussion. Thank you very much.

RUSSIAN INDIVIDUAL 1 [RU1]: Thank you. Now our technique papers are already made as they are ready to be given to Mister Deputy Prime Minister.

SAVOINI: Yes, yes.

RU1: But we have to discuss latest decisions maybe.

SAVOINI: Please, please.

RU1: To check our [INAUDIBLE] to prepare for deputy prime minister.

RU1: (in Russian) So, on our end everything is ready, but we need to discuss the final details.

RUSSIAN INDIVIDUAL 3 [RU3]: (in Russian) Then let’s talk about it.

RUSSIAN INDIVIDUAL 2 [RU2]: Just one question concerning the legal. Yesterday’s talks confront both types of fuel, aviation kerosene or diesel.

RU1: (in Russian) No, no, no! There were no specifics mentioned. We’ll manage it.

RU2: OK so in general, speaking.

RU1: Ya, in general...

RU2: So now we can go with the names about the particular maybe two companies who will be delivering, firstly delivering from Russia because will not be the final contractor, so after this we will understand who will be the contractor with the company you send us.

ITALIAN INDIVIDUAL 2 [IT2]: You mean the bank.

RU2: Bank, investment bank. So after this as you mentioned, we will be also possible to discuss whatever done will be the most suitable for both sides in terms of delivery.

SAVOINI: Ilya [sp.?], sometimes is better that Luca can translate for Francesco.

RU2: OK, OK, sometimes...

SAVOINI: (in Italian) “Better otherwise he... [INAUDIBLE]

IT2: My god, milon [sp?] unpaid work.

SAVOINI: I need that Francesco knows everywhere, now.

IT2: OK, so can I suggest, Ilya, can I suggest that you make just small phrases so that I can…

RU?: Sure, sure, sure, OK.

IT2: So let’s cancel, let’s restart from the beginning. Nonno. How do you say “nonno” in Russia? Gadushka [sp.?]?

ITLIAN INDIVIDUAL 3 [IT3]: Sprits, spirits.

IT2: Yes, yes, humor.

Savoini: English humor.

RU?: Yes, English humour.

IT2: You know this is the only thing that I can do. [repeats same sentence in Italian] To speak English so you don’t understand and I take some freedoms... Sorry.

IT3: (in Italian) I know.


RU2: In general.

IT2: (in Italian) Generally speaking...

RU2: We have Eni who will be on the Italian side, yes? We have Russian oil company on our side, and we have two companies in the middle. The bank, you are the bank, and one Russian company who will be, who will sign the contract with the bank.

[IT2 translates to Italian]

IT2: The fourth company is... We can say seller mandate for the fourth company? We are not going to buy directly from a major, right?

RU2: Yes.

IT2: We are not going to buy directly from the major.

RU2: Yes.



IT2: Francesco says no problem to have a fourth company in between. The most important is that it is a well-known company, because otherwise we are going to have problems with KYC [Know Your Client] and AM…[Anti-Money Laundering rules]

RU1: What is criteria? Can we receive some criterias which we should fulfill?

IT2: Well, the best would be major to major and the bank in between. Right. The best would be major to major. Why? Because we make a purchase contract with Russian major, we make sale contract to Italian buyer, major, and this is going to be a back-to-back contract so clearly shown to everybody, maybe without the price but it’s clearly the contracts are linked. If we need another company in between, then we need to have need to have a, you know, reasonably well-known company. I make an example. If it is Lukoil selling, we would like to have Litasco. OK. Just to...


Or if it is…

RU2: Rosneft, for instance.

IT2: If the company in between is Trafigura, no problem for anybody. It should be a well-known, otherwise we run the risk.

RU2: What is better? Just to discuss. This company will be in Russia or in the European...

IT: Europe, definitely.

[In Russian]

RU2: So what are we talking about...

RU1: I got it. The only thing I didn’t get is what’s a back-to-back contract.

RU2: If the deal will be signed between, let’s say, Rosneft and their company, the investment bank he mentioned will be the formal buyer bank and it will get the additional margin. In fact, the oil will go from one [INAUDIBLE] to another company. They will make all the calculations. Essentially, the money will go from the bank that is financing [INAUDIBLE] to the bank that is financing [INAUDIBLE]

RU1: Four instruments?

RU2: That’s preferable. Why? Because if the company, which is buying from our big oil producers, Rosneft or Lukoil, and later selling, a fourth company appears, then this is... [INAUDIBLE] They have a certain monitoring procedure and if the company doesn’t match the...

RU1: Parameters?

RU2: [INAUDIBLE] they will have problems.

RU1: And this company is from our side?

RU3: Won’t they be able to?

RU2: Yes, but he’s saying that if this company is at the level of Trafigura — a trading structure of TNK or Rosneft — then that’s fine. Meaning, if this is a well-known, normal company, that has reasons for which this deal is happening through it.

RU3: [INAUDIBLE] Can’t we show?

RU2: If it will look like a shell company, there will be risks.

RU3: How should we act, then?

RU2: We should choose the company that meets the conditions. Janko [sp.?] said that ideally this should be a company that is in the EU.

RU1: Yes.

RU2: This company can’t be from Eastern Europe.

RU1: But in general, this is a task we can solve?

RU2: Everything is solvable.

[Russian ends]

RU2: Is bit more we discussed because also we speak a lot about some options.

IT2: But Ilya, look, it’’s, I just want to make it clear that if there is any suggested methods from your side, we might be very flexible. Now it’s more up to you in order to guess or to make the best strategy to sell the products. The bank is an English bank so is subject to FCA or to BaFin in Germany. So as far as we are dealing major to major, there is no problem. Everybody knows Rosneft. Everybody knows Eni. Everybody knows. If there is another in the middle...

RU2: A trader.

IT2: If is a trader is better, but if you need to have an unknown company, it might also be possible, but then we will need to carry out a “know your client” procedure. It will take a few weeks, so but...

RU2: It will be... We will have to change the timings.

IT2: Because the best for us, and once more if it is easier for you to sell FOB Black Sea, it’s OK with us because maybe we will ask for 0 point discount to cover the logistics, so the shipping costs maybe. But maybe it’s cheaper for you instead of putting in Rotterdam, you can just say you come to Novorossiysk. You say to come, this is the quantity you come with your own ships, vessels, you upload, you go, this might be also an option. If it’s more convenient for you. We just...once again, the bank is our bank, so we are flexible. And we can, you know, be very flexible.

[In Russian]

RU2: Since the bank is located in the UK, it must comply with the requirements of [INAUDIBLE] So there shouldn’t be any problem with a large trader. But if the company is at some sort of other level [size], then, according to the standards of the checking process, it won’t pass through formal criteria. It is possible, but if it will take a lot of time, they won’t be happy about this. But they are flexible about everything else, like the port of Rotterdam or the port of Novorossiysk or some other port in Russia. The difference in spending [INAUDIBLE] is not significant. From the point of view of where to send it from, we can also choose Novorossiysk. But the only question is the bank. [INAUDIBLE] because of this, the whole process can stop. [INAUDIBLE] There would be a flaw.

[Russian ends]

IT2: (in Italian) I told him we could buy from Black Sea if easier for them. We would send the ships to pick it up. They would apply a small discount on top of that one to cover logistics if easier. We have contacts with majors in Rotterdam. They are my clients. Verwater, who built all the Rotterdam port, are my clients. It’s not a big problem.

IT2: The second issue and second and last issue for us, if maybe we have spoken about in the past but now it’s the case to speak about this again. The best formula for us would be to buy open credit. Why? Because we sell open credit. What does it mean? It means that Eni takes the product and pays in a window, temporal window, one per month. There is normally 17th to 27th of each month to pay. So we, if Eni takes on the 16th, then we are going to be paid in these 10 days. If Eni takes on the 28th, then we have to wait... So in technical language this is open credit formula. We would need to have the same. Why? Because of course the major sells to Eni. Eni buys. Then Eni pays into the same bank possibly and the bank has already the order that once Eni’s invoice is settled into their account, they will settle the other type. And there is something remaining and then we will see as a bank how to handle it for the needs, OK.

So only once again, only these two issues. The first one once again we are flexible. And flexible in the sense that if Rotterdam is not convenient, we go, we come and pick the product. The second one should be open credit formula, and in such a case either we involve Intesa Russia, Banca Intesa Russia, and I think all the majors here. Rosneft, they might have an account, Eni does. Or if it is from Austria or it is from Switzerland. Because if it is Litasco, Litasco is Switzerland generally, or if it is Austria for Rosneft, Austria for instance. Then the same in terms of banks. If it is Austria, we have very good links with Mr. Moscovic, that is the owner of Winter Bank, there we can ask him to open a bank account for Eni, a bank account for the seller and do good rates. So it’s also easy. But the best would be just to give a so-called irrevocable order to the bank by which once the payment is received, the pace is made. No need to enter into this anymore. You just give an irrevocable order.

And from our side is all I think.

[In Russian]

RU2: [INAUDIBLE] It’s ideal, of course, when both parties open an account in the same bank. If we are talking about [INAUDIBLE], then it is easier to work with Intesa. They can give recommendations to a trader without an account, so it can open it [accounts] quickly. There are also European banks they can help with. We need to think about this carefully. [INAUDIBLE]

RU1: I do not understand all of this! You are the one who has to understand all of this!

RU2: Everything will be fine!

RU1: I'm getting lost with the technicalities. Just start asking the questions that are more or less important for you.

RU3: When will [INAUDIBLE] Nikolaevich arrive?

RU1: Tomorrow or today.


RU1: Then Ilya, you should ask the questions you’re interested in. Do you understand everything now?

RU2: Yes.

RU3: And if we will call [INAUDIBLE]?

RU2: Well, in terms of what we need...


RU1: Discuss everything right now! When will you discuss later? Discuss everything so that all the questions are answered.

[Russian ends]

RU2: We are talking about the quantity. For example, 3 million [metric] tons. If we run now this deal 3 million, then the deal is closed, we don’t have any huge risks. What do you think about? It’s only for half a year, yeah?

IT2: It depends on you. It depends on your capability. We have the capabilities, technical capabilities, to absorb whatever quantity given that the product is the product needed. Whatever quantities you are available too, but of course I don’t think your efforts are unlimited. Why are you talking about six months?

RU2: For example, we are talking 3 million tons during half a year.

IT2: Half a year or one year? It’s one year.

RU2: One year.

IT2: Because otherwise is 6 million in one year, which is 500,000 per month. We can accept this, we can absorb 500,000 per month for one year.

RU2: If after this year you are interested in prolonging in future?

IT2: Absolutely yes, but also if in the same year you say, look, guys, we have difficulty in placing this product say it is mazut nobody wants mazut. Let’s make an example during the year we are already buying and you say can you buy this as well, we are absolutely capable from a technical point of view to buy the product.

[In Russian]

RU1: We are actually prepared for a lot more. I’m very nervous with these questions. How many tons? And the question was — what next? [INAUDIBLE]

RU1: Tell him — everything is clear with the general party. We will get permission for the start of the work, the start of intensive actions. But what if we will find our own [INAUDIBLE]. Verkhniy told me that we can ask — that if we find our own volumes, independent from any kind of political force, then we can get some kind of commission? How do you see this?

[Russian ends]

RU1: Now for example, we are talking about this political message about this whatever to [INAUDIBLE] but we also have some of our own contacts in the oil and gas companies [INAUDIBLE] maybe they will propose some options for delivering also gas if you are interested. Is possible to discuss?

IT2: Absolutely.

RU2: But the question is, the contacts also are interested in some commission. If it’s possible from your side.

IT2: To recognize commission to an intermediary?

RU2: Yes.

IT2: No problem. It depends of course if I buy open credit, for instance, I am going to save quite a significant amount of money. Why? I am saving money because I am not forced to access the markets and buy an instrument, a standby electric credit, it’s more than banking guarantee, a documentary one because all this has a cost. So if I do not have this cost, why not paying for commission? So absolutely yes.

RU2: So for example, this level of 4% discount from Rotterdam price. It’s a basic level which you cover all costs? And we have some [INAUDIBLE] this is a replicable contract [INAUDIBLE]. Possible, for example, 5% discount, it’s possible?

IT2: Whatever is above 4, we can return it.

[In Russian]

RU2: There is a certain level at which [INAUDIBLE] is hard to pay, [INAUDIBLE] but from any higher level, there won’t be any questions here.

RU1: And how will they do it technically in this case?

[Russian ends]

RU2: Technically what type of contract [INAUDIBLE] it’s possible to discurd [sp.?] this commission?

IT2: We have two ways. The first one is to have a normal NC NBIA or IMPFA according to the ICC of Paris. IMPFA is an international master fee protection agreement, so is a contract standard contract issued by the International Chamber of Commerce in Paris and is exactly is clearly expressed who are counterparties, who is the so to say mandate, what is the percentage how is paid, so on and so forth. This is normally what you do. But once again we have a bank so the counterparty, that is the one that takes the commission, should be a perfect company otherwise the bank will have a problem in signing.

Second option it’s lawyer to lawyer. I can also enter into an agreement with a lawyer, local whatever. I am a lawyer and I can make a contract lawyer to lawyer saying...

[In Russian]

RU1: Legal aspect, yes?

RU2: A law firm with a law firm.

RU1: Yes, I understood [INAUDIBLE].

[Russian ends]

IT2: So lawyer to lawyer it’s even easier because me as a lawyer can enter into an agreement normally. It’s called correspondents fee agreement, so given I that am paid through a council fee agreement from him, given that I need your competencies and qualities because you are a colleague and are very… and from payment from him I will pay to you and it’s easy. It’s even stronger, so up to you. It depends.

[In Russian]

RU1: Maybe, we should also use this option everywhere?

RU3: If we will make more, then [INAUDIBLE]. If we’ll get 6% discount, what will we get?

RU1: It depends on the market price, he said.

RU3: For example [INAUDIBLE] this situation.

RU2: The question is whether we can use the company that is involved in the traide with Naftogaz. This is the trading company [INAUDIBLE]. It is a standard contract. This is one thing. But this would not make a huge difference with the fourth company. The second option is more comfortable. Two [INAUDIBLE] companies in fact cooperating. It’s our companies and it is making a certain profit [INAUDIBLE] finding the partner. They are getting certain percentage.

RU1: It’s also a good option.

RU2: Yes, and we have the law firm.

RU3: The law firm.

[Russian ends]

RU2: Maybe it’s also this, the second option would become more acceptable.

IT2: It’s standard.

RU2: What is usual practice?

IT2: Usual practice I don’t need to check my counterparty according to my ethic code, when I have a lawyer in front of me, I do not need to make any due diligence. He is a lawyer.

RU2: [INAUDIBLE] For example, if we receive 6% discount, what could, what type of commission is possible to make?

IT2: It’s very simple, the planning made by our political guys was that given a 4% discount 250,000 plus 250,000 per month per one year, they can sustain a campaign.

So if you ask me now what is, what is the percent if we make 6%. My first answer would be whatever is above 4%, we don’t need it. This would be the answer. We don’t need it, because we made a plan that with 4% we are satisfied. I would say we don’t need. Of course if you know...

[In Russian]

RU2: I think we have to have a common mutual interest with them.

RU1: Is everything fine with logistics? How will he get 4%?

RU2: It will work out.

RU3: He’ll just claim the cost is 4% and this is it.

RU2: From what I understood, they don’t want to earn money, but they are interested. I mean they must be interested too.

RU3: Sure, if we’ll make 6%.

RU2: Let’s say [INAUDIBLE], so they can get some money out of this deal.

[Russian ends]

RU2: Of course I understand that also mini-deals should be for both sides of course. We think that you also have to get some additional commission in this case included above 4%.

IT2: Why not? But you know, so far it’s not professional issue, is just a political issue. So we, I do not count we, he’s not counting to make money out of it. We count on sustaining a political campaign, which is of benefit, I would say of mutual benefit for the two countries.

Having said so, if the reason there is space for you to organize a bigger discount, my first answer is 4% for us is enough, provided there is an open credit so we do not have costs for the financial instrument. I would say they have made their plans on 4% net, so if you now say it’s 10% discount, I would say 6% is yours. OK? Of course we can sit at the table, but I think this is not my field anymore, but it’s easy because they have the authority to discuss. But if the first question is what do I get if I make a greater discount, I would say you get all, anything on top 4%, we don’t need it.

[In Russian]

RU1: Is it prosecutable legally or criminally?

RU2: It’s standard. The thing that [INAUDIBLE] is talking about is one company signing the contract with another company, getting a fee and doing nothing.

RU1: All right.

RU2: In this case the fourth company is not necessary. We have to talk about this with the Comrade.

RU1: OK. Now we need to confirm fuel type? Or we have no questions about the fuel?

RU3: We know the quantity.

RU2: Well, we discussed 250,000 per month and the contract for a year. We will get diesel, if we won’t be able to get aviation kerosene.

RU1: Do we have any alternatives?

RU3: Talk again about diesel and kerosene.

RU1: Do they know about that?

[Russian ends]

RU2: We also discussed the type of fuel which you are interested in. Probably will be possible to get some quantity for aviation fuel, either 100,000, 200,000, but anyway we will try to get because you mentioned that it’s big amount [INAUDIBLE] for aviation fuel.

RU1: (in Russian) I’m simply thinking about the fact that the more we offer the boss, the more we will have, and if we will offer specifically, then...

RU2: So we will try to make contract for both type.

IT2: And if it is difficult for the aviation fuel, don’t worry. Maybe we can either find a different product or maybe we can put as we were saying in Rome, we replace with ULSD. if it is 500,000 of ULSD, is OK with us.

[In Russian]

RU2: This is not a problem if...

RU1: Will he [one of the Italians] add something else to the list just in case? I mean not quantity, but type of products. Will he add something else to the list?

[Russian ends]

RU2: I ask about, about maybe in air aviation, we have a problem because it’s...

IT2: Don’t do it.

RU2: It’s [INAUDIBLE] license, I have another specification fuel for this list.

IT2: You just tell me and I will check the market if this is a product that I can sell.

RU2: But you have to give us the name of this type of fuel and we add to this list that we will give to the [INAUDIBLE] prime minister. We are thinking about this.

IT2: Ok

RU2: We thinking about this. Today two points of fuel, first is diesel, second is aviation, but maybe we will add another type of diesel would be a solution.

IT2: I can check. I have to ask the responsible of the, it’s called the distillates desk. The desk of distillates is aviation, is benzine, is gasoil. I will ask him whether this is another type of product we are in a position to sell at a good price, because if the price is very big and we get 4% discount you know there is no deal. But I will check. But who am I supposed to... Because at this stage I think the best would be to write via email with him. So the .su domain. Because he has an email .su.

RU1: (in Russian) So! Let’s talk about the new type [of fuel]. If there will be a need for it, he will let you know.

IT2: We can also use WhatsApp. WhatsApp is better.

RU2: WhatsApp or Telegram.

[In Russian]

RU1: Did you get contact information? Did you leave your contact information? What are the other questions we have?

RU3: We need to tell them that we are expecting Vladimir Nikolaevich’s return. We are waiting for him. Hopefully we’ll get the green light next week.

RU1: I was thinking about something else... I feel like I need to fly back.

[Russian ends]

RU2: We are waiting for Mr. Pligin to return when to discuss.

IT2: He is away? He left Russia?

RU2: Moscow.

IT2: Ah, Moscow. Not Russia. I had looked into this case. Then I will just say no, he is not on red alert in interpol he’s not...

RU2: So it‘s possible to [INAUDIBLE]

IT: It’s possible if he wants to come to Italy we can organize it, but it is possible nobody is checking the name of his passport. OK.

[In Russian]

RU2: Let’s talk again about the business trip to Italy.

RU3: We already talked about it, Sasha, don’t go off script! Everything's going to be fine.

RU1: I talked to Vladimiv Nikolaevich. He said he doesn't want to [go to Italy].

RU3: Oh! He doesn’t want to?! We have to explain that to our Italian colleagues that [INAUDIBLE] we were talking about just now.

[Russian ends]

RU2: So we will discuss this [INAUDIBLE] three companies, those who discuss the price, potential commission might be more than 4% discount.

IT2: Might be better. I think both sides have to be comfortable with whatever we need to do. It’s not easy. There are lots of hidden problems. The vessel is late. Or the vessel uploads and port authorities, Russian port authorities, say no, you cannot go. There are lots of hidden problems. Let’s make it easy from the beginning.

RU2: So Eni will use its own ships?

IT2: Eni has its own ships, but normally it depends on where the upload boat is, because might, might be more convenient to ask, for instance, Esse Di Maria [sp?], one of the biggest logistics companies, or some other company depending on where to go. So Eni has their own ships but normally the Eni ships are up to 50,000, so the best in order to save on delivery cost would be to have at least one Aframax, Aframax is a cargo category up to 250,000.

RU2: For example, is for Baltic Sea, we can also only up to 120.

IT2: Baltic?

RU2: Yes. As for Novorossiysk, we will check.

IT2: You have Transneft there, so maybe they just open the pipeline, they upload and they go.

[In Russian]

RU1: We should discuss ports.

RU2: We are talking about this now. There are options of delivery to Baltic and Black Sea.

RU3: [INAUDIBLE] small ships.

RU2: There are additional costs. If it is the port in Rotterdam, we could get costs higher due to the fact that there will be a commission. We’ll get it. Although Janko said 4% is enough for them. There will be no problem.

[Russian ends]

IT2: I think that maybe the next effort should be our joint effort should be concentrated on timetable. If we are very quick, but we need to be very, very quick, then I think first delivery might be in November and which I don’t think it’s up to you but we have to be very quick.

RU2: Also I agree with you because we have to act very quickly.

[In Russian]

RU2: According to Janko, it’s better to create [INCOMPREHENSIBLE] from the very beginning.

RU1: We should act quickly. We agree with Gianluca.

RU2: If it is simpler, it will start working sooner.

[Russian ends]

RU2: We discussed that we have to act very quickly

IT2: You know I am available at your disposal. If you send me a WhatsApp tomorrow, come here to Moscow, I have a multi-entry visa I can come and come here.

RU2: For your visa you can go via embassy, you can do it one day.

IT2: I don’t want my to pass by your embassy. You know your embassy in Italy is my client. I have a multi-entry. I just take...


IT2: Francesco is saying that quickness is of utmost importance because elections are just around the corner, so he says if we are OK to start very quickly and maybe then in 6 months’ time, there is some problem, it’s OK some problem any delay, but it’s better to concentrate the efforts once and for all and starting as soon as possible.

IT3: Is the problem (switches to Italian)... Now then afterwards 2–3 months it’s OK.

[In Russian]

RU1: I have an opportunity to come to Italy in November. Does it make any sense?

RU3: Who has an opportunity? You have? So what?

RU2: So what?

[Russian Ends]

[Some of the men are smoking a cigarette]

RU3: I understand English, but don’t speak.

IT2: Understand is enough. You come to Italy some time? With wife, children?

RU3: March. Next year.

IT3: I don’t speak English.

RU3: (in Italian) I don’t speak Italian.

IT2: We are now concentrating on the quickness. Given they will tell us whether it is 250 or 500 thousand. Given they will tell us if there is some other product, they will tell us if there is an extra discount to be returned. Everything is OK. I told and Andrey agreed quickness is of utmost importance. If we are quick now maybe first delivery in November; if we are not quick then maybe it’s December, and then December we know in Italy it’s Christmas and everybody is very lazy.

SAVOINI: In Russia too. In Russia Christmas in January. Holiday Italian then Russian, we have one month of holidays. 15 December, 15 January, Italy and Russia together is holidays.

IT2: I told them that I am available upon call. I mean if they need me to take a flight to come to Moscow tomorrow, no problem. I will be concentrating on this, I am there. They can make whatever. If they need me, I am there also with the manager who can execute. I pick up the phone London, I take a plane and I am here. And the rest is up to you. You try to find the best solution.

I am sure that these elections will be good elections. The European one in May.

SAVOINI: Yes of course, of course. We are changing really the situation in Europe. And It’s impossible to stop. The history is marching, so it’s impossible. It’s really a new deal, a new situation, a new future for us. We are in the center of this process. But we have a lot of enemies, we are in a dangerous situation because our government is attacked from Brussels, from the globalist men, not Trump, but the establishment of Obama is very, very strong and inside in Italy too. We are in dangerous... it is not so simple, but we want to fight because we are in truth.

IT2: if you have any gulag, we can send you some from Italy. The gulag. Gulag. It’s a joke, but if you have a gulag, we send you a lot of people.

IT?: For reeducation.

IT?: Rehab.

RU?: Rehabilitation.

IT?: Mental rehabilitation.

[In Italian]

IT2: I am very hopeful.

Savoini: The feelings are good.

IT2: I don’t understand this return, who it goes to.

SAVOINI: To them. They take even 400 or whatever the fuck they need to take. It doesn’t matter. It’s a guarantee. It means they will always do that and for us, it’s OK.

IT2: Of course. With the first delivery, Gianluca, we take the bank. I want to be in the control room.

SAVOINI: He already told me where you will be.

IT2: With the first delivery you take it all. From the second you’re free. The current president, who has made his margins, we put him on a contract, £20,000 a month, great, after that ‘I”ll tell you,’ we tell him what to do. The bank will then be needed it for N other operations.

SAVOINI: There is total control.

IT2: They have a banking problem, they could need a bank with a double passport after Brexit. At that point you position yourself on a financial lane that is a lot more lucrative than material trade. Because material trade has always risk, you go to the bakers and the bread is finished. On the financial branch vice versa, you charge zero comma on transactions and you wait at home for the transfer to arrive. After that Francesco will see how to organize the return. There need to be prudent.

SAVOINI: Obviously. There I won’t know anything, nothing. Need to be more than prudent. We will have all the [inaudible] and their satellites on us. But I trust all of our abilities in our respective fields. We have created this triumvirate, me, you, and him, it needs to work that way. Just us three. A watertight compartment. Yesterday too Aleksander said the important thing is that it’s just you [three]. You, me, represent the total connection for both the Italian and their ‘political side,’ and you — with me — are my partners. Just us. You, Francesco, and me. Nobody else.

IT2: If we meet, we don’t talk about this stuff.

SAVOINI: It’s not that we won’t meet. You know Francesco better than me. It’s not that we won’t meet again. We will meet the right amount. We get along well.

IT2: You need to remove that fucking bib. Come with us and you will find friends, I’m sure.

[In Russian]

RU3: We will say it’s a law firm.

RU2: Yes, we’ll change everything. Andrey!

RU1: Are we done here? Should we pay and leave?

RU2: Speaking about [INAUDIBLE].

IT3: (in Italian) I want to say how important it is to us to do this by December even if it is then delayed 2, 3 months, June, July we don’t care.

[Italian and Russian end]

RU2: Concerning the future contract, I think we have all the information. We will be waiting for discussion with Mr. Evgeny [sp.?] after this. I understand the urgency. So more easy, the better. I think [INAUDIBLE].

IT2 [taking notes]: OK. Just so to have it clear, I will await for you to confirm the product, quantities and whatever you are able to. You confirm product, quantities, and price. Because you know. And I can make a nota bene it’s OK 4%, maybe higher, “to be returned.”

RU2: The best play the contract with some law firm. It’s the best.

IT2: I think so. For me, it’s very easy.

RU2: For us it seems to be very easy. Better for you. Otherwise restrictions.

IT2: I don’t need to make any due diligence if I deal as a lawyer with another lawyer, I give it for granted that the bar association to which my colleague belongs has already guaranteeing on his... So I don’t need to make any due diligence. OK open, open credit.

RU2: Irrevocable.

IT2: Open credit. And then it’s bank instructed.

RU2: Intesa.

IT2: I-n-t-e-s-a irrevocably to pay out once received funds. Intesa BCI Russia. And I think they have their own man inside, so it should be easy.

[In Russian]

RU1: What is Intesa?

RU2: It’s an Italian bank.

RU1: Is it represented in Russia?

RU2: Yes! Gianluca has his own people there. He said it will be easier.

[Russian ends]

IT2: Lega they have already in the steering committee a man in there is called Mascetti and so we can talk to him. But if it’s another bank, if it’s another bank, European bank maybe, Switzerland or Austrian, then don’t worry, we do have the contacts in both in Switzerland and in Austria. OK Intesa BCI, and this is a nota bene you confirm products and business.

RU2: Delivery we discussed if Russian ports or [INAUDIBLE].

IT2: OK delivery terms either FOB Rotterdam or FOB, I would say Black Sea ports. Black Sea ports. What else? I would also say NB quickness is of utmost importance. First delivery in...

[In Russian]

RU1: He is Italian, not Italian, but the European Trump, because he has now become the head of all the ultra right [in Europe].

RU2: Right?

RU1: Of the ultra right — Le Pen, AFD. The third biggest in Finland.

RU2: In Sweden.

RU1: He is the head of all the right.

[Russian ends]

IT2: I will just make a screenshot here and send it to you just to be on the same page. OK gentlemen, I think it’s going in the right direction and...

RU1: And it’s my luck to make them act quickly and immediately.

IT2: You will. Maybe we can also meet in Rome if you feel like or in London, maybe at the bank or maybe we can meet at Eni also. This is just details. Let’s work at the fundamentals, then once fundamentals are OK, the rest are details to be agreed upon.

Anything else?

[Inaudible Italian in background]

SAVOINI: Not possible. Dollars you cannot in Russia.

[Italian ends]

IT2: You cannot work with US dollars in Russia?

RU2: We can work in any currency.

IT2: He says if bank is Russian, you cannot deal in dollars,

Savoini: [INAUDIBLE] Ucraina...

RU2: We cannot deal in dollars between Russian companies.

IT2: In any case, we can also use euros. We can convert. But should see if applicable platz index is also given in euros, it might be not only in dollars. But these are technicalities once more. The last will then we said delivery terms Rotterdam or Black... [Goes back to Italian]

SAVOINI [in Italian] he [Savoini] can be heard suggesting smaller initial shipment if easier. Repeats concern about USD. “Swift code doesn’t transfer.”

[In Italian]

IT?: We need to after this meeting talk to the guy who begins with “Ma” and ends with “etti” so that they meet after the fundamentals are closed. Why am I interested? Because Eni already has accounts with Intesa, and they do too probably.

[Italian ends]

IT2: He is saying to put some attention on the financial transaction not to incur any problems. Can I say yes, we will work on it?

RU2: If we make it in one bank, for example Intesa, it will not be a problem.

IT2: I agree we have to involve the bank. Second step calling the bank, this is the need and do not charge that much. You know It’s easy. Then it’s once again political.


[Discussion, laughter, light discussion on who pays.]

IT?: We do it, Andrey! [INAUDIBLE].

RU?: This is not Rome.

SAVOINI: Moscow is the third Rome.

IT2: Beautiful weather. I just want to have a little walk. If you want.

RU?: I don’t like these packets. I don’t like these pictures [referring to the warning label on the cigarette pack]. In Italy it’s even worse.

RU1: I can’t buy cigarettes in Rome. Dunhill. When I saw it, I was what a terrible picture. This country is very more favorable to smokers, no pictures at all.

IT2: You know the joke. In Italy we have different pictures and there is one with a pregnant woman saying don’t smoke or you run the risk of not getting pregnant, and we male always ask for that one, the one that, that we are not going to be pregnant, please. Can I have the one no pregnancy please?

It’s stupid to smoke, to be honest. We should stop. On the other hand, is very difficult. Now Philip Morris make this electronic cigarette. I want to try.

RU1: Yuri has experience. He gave up smoking in one day. After 13 years of smoking. But now he start again.

IT2: Let’s close the deal and we stop together.

RU1: Yes.

IT2: We stop smoking and we start going with the girls.

RU1: His wife will be glad.

[Chairs moving; men can be heard talking about holidays in Sicily and Sardinia, hotel names, flight times]

IT?: Let’s go.

[Men can be heard walking away from table] ... al-meeting
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Re: Russia Tried To Funnel Millions To The “European Trump”

Postby seemslikeadream » Fri Jul 12, 2019 9:21 am

The World Congress of Families is mentioned in this write-up of the new recording linking Italian far-right to Russia: ... audio.html


We've written extensively about the World Congress of Family's ties in/to Russia over the past year—among the highlights:

1. Looking through the Americans who spoke at this year's WCF conference, including Clarence Thomas's former clerk:

These prominent Americans are speaking at far-right Russia conference linked to sanctioned oligarchs

Clarence Thomas's former clerk and a megachurch pastor leading Bible study groups in Washington decide to join the World Congress of Families.

Mar 4, 2019, 8:00 am

John Eastman, Jim Garlow, and Sean O'Hare are among the Americans slated to speak at next month's World Congress of Families conference in Verona, Italy. PHOTO CREDIT: GETTY, ILLUSTRATION BY DIANA OFOSU

The World Congress of Families (WCF), a notorious anti-LGBTQ group that’s reportedly received funding from sanctioned Russian oligarchs, is hosting its annual conference in Verona, Italy next month. And a number of Americans have decided to join them.

Among the Americans slated to speak at the WCF conference are John Eastman, former clerk for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and now a professor at Chapman University, and megachurch pastor Jim Garlow. According to the WCF’s roster, they will also be joined by Mike Donnelly, a higher-up at the right-wing Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA), and Sean O’Hare, the chairman of one of the most prominent anti-abortion groups aimed at American youth.

Donnelly confirmed to ThinkProgress that he would be speaking at the WCF conference next month. O’Hare, Garlow, Eastman, and Chapman University did not respond to ThinkProgress’ request for comment.


How an anti-LGBTQ American group fits in with secret Russian financing plans

Christian fundamentalists gathering in Moldova want you to know they’re not extremists

There’s nothing illegal about these Americans attending the upcoming conference, which will be hosted at the end of March. But WCF is currently the most prominent group linking the American religious right and sanctioned Russian oligarchs, and just a few months ago, the group hosted a Russian official sanctioned by both the Trump and Obama administrations.

The WCF — which the Southern Poverty Law Center has identified as a hate group — is a joint Russian-American project dating to the mid-1990s. It has reportedly received funding from sanctioned Russian oligarchs like Konstantin Malofeev and Vladimir Yakunin, the latter of whom is a close confidant of Russian President Vladimir Putin. (Multiple media outlets, and even WCF’s own promotional material, have all linked Yakunin to the group, but a representative for Yakunin denied to ThinkProgress that Yakunin has funded the group.)


Some of the speakers listed at the upcoming World Congress of Families conference.
Just last year, the WCF, which did not respond to ThinkProgress’s questions, also hosted Yelena Mizulina as a speaker at its annual conference in Moldova. Mizulina is a member of the Russian Duma and has been sanctioned by both the Obama and Trump administrations. She also spoke at a homeschooling conference in Russia last year — an event hosted by Donnelly’s homeschooling organization in partnership with Malofeev’s foundation.

The WCF’s official Russian representative, Alexey Komov, has a history of praising fascists and anti-Semites, according to emails made public by the Russian hacking outfit Shaltai Boltai. In the emails, Komov referred to one Italian neo-fascist as a “friend” and the anti-Semitic “Russia Insider” outlet, run by an American named Charles Bausman, as a “good site.” (Komov has commented on those emails to say that the “information in the attachments does not properly reflect reality.”) Just last month, Bausman returned Komov’s praise, referring to him as a “good friend.” Komov also works directly for Malofeev, an oligarch sanctioned by the U.S. for his role in helping Russia try to break up Ukraine in 2014. WCF President Brian Brown recently said on Twitter that he “love[s]” Komov.

For good measure, the upcoming conference will also feature CitizenGO — an anti-LGBTQ Spanish group that includes Komov as part of its board.


A number of bigoted organizations are joining the World Congress of Families in sponsoring next month's conference.
And just last week, a bombshell investigation from Italy’s L’Espresso found that Komov was reportedly a key player in a financial scheme to funnel Russian money to Italian nationalists. Komov has yet to comment on the report.

Americans abroad

Next month’s WCF conference will feature speakers from a number of countries outside the U.S. and Russia, including representatives from as far as Malawi and Nigeria. A handful of politicians are expected to speak, including Moldovan President Igor Dodon and Italian Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini.

However, given the history of the Kremlin’s election meddling in the U.S., the ongoing standoff between Moscow and Washington, and the fact that the U.S. has sanctioned the oligarchs reportedly involved with the WCF, the Americans’ presence is perhaps the most notable.

Eastman, Justice Thomas’ former clerk, has worked closely with WCF head Brian Brown in the past, including at the vociferously anti-LGBTQ National Organization for Marriage, where Eastman works as the chairman.


John Eastman has worked closely with WCF head Brian Brown on anti-LGBTQ initiatives in the past, including the National Organization for Marriage.
Garlow, the megachurch pastor scheduled to speak at the WCF conference, is also well-known in religious right circles, especially for his role in promoting California’s anti-LGBTQ Proposition 8 measure a decade ago. He recently stepped down from working at California’s Skyline Church, but apparently hasn’t fully retired from public life. Rather, as Garlow told the Christian Post reported in September, he “recently launched a Bible study within a federal agency” in Washington. Garlow did not reveal which federal agency it was, but said that he was hoping to expand his teaching to at least three federal agencies in total.

Garlow also recently held Bible study sessions at the United Nations, with former Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) providing help, according to the Christian Post. He even attended a White House dinner in August, joining some 100 other evangelical figures.

“It’s not surprising to see someone like Garlow, who is not a household name like Franklin Graham but is only one tier or so down in terms of being a serious evangelical influencer,” said Chris Stroop, who received a doctorate from Stanford in Russian history and has studied links between the Kremlin and America’s religious right. “He’s exactly the kind of person that WCF would want to hear from and promote. Garlow may be able to share anything that he’s learned about lobbying for the Christian Right’s agenda, and he may pick up some strategies from other people at this year’s WCF [conference] as well.”

O’Hare is among the WCF’s youngest speaker. He’s the current chair of Students for Life, and describes himself on his website as a “young, dynamic and influential speaker” with “business interests including manufacturing, restaurants and cyber security.”

Hacked emails list right-wing fundraiser partying with Russian fascists and oligarchs

There are no sanctioned Russian speakers currently slated to attend, despite the WCF’s previous history with Malofeev, Yakunin, and Mizulina. The most notable Russian national appears to be Archpriest Dmitri Smirnov, who once compared LGBTQ people to murderers and bank robbers.

At last year’s WCF conference in Moldova, which ThinkProgress attended, Brown pledged that the WCF would continue to act as a bridge between Washington and the Kremlin.

“In the United States right now we have an investigation into the president over connections with Russia — and some want to use this to try and divide us,” Brown said. “Well, I wanted to tell everyone here that we know [that] what we’re doing leads to peace. We know that what we’re doing — in creating friendships of trust — is in the best interest of the family. And we know what we’re doing — there’s absolutely nothing wrong with it. The attempts to muddy the water are simply attempts to stop us from creating a more powerful, more global, unity around the family…

“The depths of our friendships will make it through.” ... 564932db2/

2. How the WCF's Russian representative schmoozed with Ben Carson: ... 4cd383eaa/

3. How the same WCF Russian representative grew close to the U.S.'s leading far-right homeschool organization:

The latest front in Russian infiltration: America’s right-wing homeschooling movement
This is the latest connection between Russia and the American religious right.

Jan 17, 2019, 11:03 am

Why is America's biggest right-wing homeschooling group networking with sanctioned Russians and their employees? ILLUSTRATION BY DIANA OFOSU
The group and its origins sound innocuous enough. But the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) — a right-wing group founded 36 years ago — has deepened connections between America’s religious right and Russians even as the latter have been sanctioned by the United States, according to a ThinkProgress investigation.

By networking with Russians, the HSLDA — now America’s largest right-wing homeschooling association — has provided the Kremlin with a new avenue of influence over some of the most conservative organizations in the United States.

And while investigations by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, intelligence organizations, and congressional committees have focused on Russia’s efforts to influence U.S. elections, Russian ties to groups like the HSLDA demonstrate the Kremlin’s broader attempts to hold sway over American policies.

Other ties between sanctioned Russians and the American far-right are well documented. From Christian fundamentalists to white supremacists to secession movements to fascists in the so-called “alt-right,” the links are as diffuse as they are damning. Not only have these networks brought Russian agents into close contact with higher-ups in the Republican party, but they’ve presented some of the primary threads of the Kremlin’s efforts at upending and unwinding American democracy.

Top articles1/5READ MORE
How an anti-LGBTQ American group fits in with secret Russian financing plans

But at the same time that details — and criticism — of these links between Russia and American right-wing groups were emerging, the HSLDA co-sponsored a formal homeschooling conference in Moscow and St. Petersburg, ThinkProgress found. One of the conference’s other sponsors was a foundation run by sanctioned Russian oligarch Konstantin Malofeev. The event featured some of the most outspoken anti-LGBTQ officials in Russia, and included a Russian official who’s currently sanctioned by the U.S. for her role in stoking Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

This Global Home Education Conference, which hosted more than 1,000 attendees from over 20 countries, provided a platform for these Russian officials and their networks to work with leaders of America’s homeschooling movement — all of it taking place as Russian links with the American far-right continue to spill out elsewhere.

Sanctioning homeschoolers

Since its founding in 1983, the Virginia-based HSLDA has become America’s most prominent homeschooling organization. The group, which advocates on behalf of homeschooling families, has a right-wing religious bent. It describes its employees as “Christians who seek to honor God” in their work. Its founder, Michael Farris, has described homeschooling as “a way to obey God’s command to teach our children to love God.”

“HSLDA has pretty much always existed… for the religious right to train up kids to take over in politics.”

“[HSLDA] is probably the major player who’s driven American homeschooling in the last 30 years, and they’ve always been a very far-right, religious-right organization,” said Kathryn Brightbill, a legislative analyst with the Coalition for Responsible Home Education, a nonprofit that advocates for accountability in homeschooling. “HSLDA has pretty much always existed in part to create that next generation of soldiers for the religious right to train up kids to take over in politics,” she said.

As it grew into the most prominent homeschooling organization in the U.S., it attracted the attention of Russians leading efforts to build relationships with the American far-right.

Russians and the American right started plotting in 1995. We have the notes from the first meeting.

These groups and individuals would help obscure the true nature of Moscow’s kleptocratic dictatorship to Americans, especially to segments of the American right. In 2014, the Kremlin pushed these relationships further: as U.S.-Russian relations fractured following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine that year, Russians close to the Kremlin looked to propel themselves directly into the types of groups and movements pushing “traditional values,” especially within the American religious right.

One of these groups, the World Congress of Families (WCF), played an outsize role linking sanctioned Russian officials to the broader U.S. religious right. The WCF, which the Southern Poverty Law Center has designated a hate group, is a joint Russian-American project that reportedly receives funding from sanctioned Russian oligarchs like Malofeev and Vladimir Yakunin, the latter of whom is the former head of Russian Railways and a close Putin confidant.

The WCF took credit for helping pass a 2011 Russian law restricting abortion access, and has likewise helped build an international coalition of anti-LGBTQ forces. It boasts some 50 membership organizations who pay dues, including the Alliance Defending Freedom and Family Research Council, which are also designated hate groups by the SPLC. The WCF took credit for helping push Russia’s 2013 “Anti-Propaganda Law,” which effectively demonizes the entire LGBTQ community.

In 2014, the WCF announced it would host its annual conference in Moscow. (The group’s most recent conference, which ThinkProgress covered, was held in Moldova, and featured many of the same Russian figures who joined the HSLDA in Russia last year.) After the U.S. began issuing sanctions on Russia in 2014 in response to Russia’s annexation of Crimea and Russian funding for separatists in Ukraine, the WCF announced it would no longer be organizing the conference, citing concerns about potentially breaching those sanctions.

But the conference was held anyway, and appeared almost identical to what the WCF had originally planned. And while some American groups like the Concerned Women for America decided to skip the conference, a number of Americans showed up — including Michael Donnelly, the HSLDA’s director of global outreach.

The HSLDA didn’t publicize Donnelly’s visit to Russia. (Other groups, like Texas secessionists, have also traveled to Russia in recent years while refraining from posting anything publicly about their visits.) But Brightbill, with the Coalition for Responsible Home Education, discovered that Donnelly followed through on his pledge to speak at the conference.

In a series of Facebook posts that Brightbill uncovered, Donnelly wrote that he “met with senior leaders of the [Russian] Orthodox Church.” As Donnelly noted on Facebook, “[The] family conference I’m attending today is being held at the Kremlin and says a lot at least on its face about the value of family in Russian government.”

Donnelly confirmed he attended the conference, writing in a text message that he was “there on official business.”

Donnelly’s visit, Brightbill said, was “super hush-hush.” And for good reason: In 2014, Americans’ ties to Russia were suddenly under U.S. scrutiny. Russia had just invaded Ukraine and supplied separatists with weaponry that brought down Malaysian Air Flight MH17, killing 298 people.

But for those following Russian outreach efforts to the American far-right, that 2014 conference was a turning point. It marked a moment in which Russia “[took] on the mantle of leadership of global social conservatism,” said scholar Chris Stroop, an expert on links between between Russia and the American religious right who received a doctorate from Stanford in Russian history.

Enemies of America, friends of the HSLDA

By 2018, those ties between the HSLDA and networks of sanctioned Russians had continued, and had deepened. One of the primary links between the HSLDA and sanctioned Russian officials is Alexey Komov. A Russian national, Komov speaks fluent English and has spent the past few years as the official Russian representative to the WCF. He also works directly for Malofeev — a man nicknamed “God’s oligarch” for his role in financing religious-right ventures in Russia and abroad. Malofeev is also currently under U.S. sanctions for having helped fund separatists in eastern Ukraine.

Alexey Komov and Elena Milskaya, both of whom work for sanctioned Russian oligarch Konstantin Malofeev, huddle at last year's homeschooling conference in Russia. CREDIT: GHEX
Alexey Komov and Elena Milskaya, both of whom work for sanctioned Russian oligarch Konstantin Malofeev, huddle at last year's homeschooling conference in Russia. CREDIT: GHEX
Komov helped the HSLDA bring the annual Global Home Education Conference to Russia last May — the first time the conference was hosted there. The decision effectively represented the culmination of Russia’s efforts to liaise with the American right-wing homeschooling movement. One of the outlets that promoted the conference was a pro-Kremlin site called Russian Faith, which is run by the rabidly anti-Semitic Charles Bausman; another WCF adviser, Pavel Parfentiev, who claimed credit for Russia’s ban on adoptions by LGBTQ couples, also spoke at the conference.

Donnelly said the 2018 conference wasn’t specifically an HSLDA project, but that HSLDA was simply one of the event’s co-sponsors. He also said that HSLDA provided no direct financial support for the conference. “The conference is a project supported by HSLDA, but it’s not HSLDA [as] the organization that actually did the conference,” he told ThinkProgress. “We felt that [Russia] was a good place to go — and it turns out it was.”

But it appears the HSLDA played an important role in organizing the conference: The official contact for the conference is an HSLDA email address, and the conference’s official webpage was registered by the HSLDA.

“[Komov] was the primary organizer, Russian organizer, of this homeschooling event,” said Allan Carlson, one of the WCF’s co-founders and a speaker at the conference. “The chief American sponsoring group was the… HSLDA.”

Conferencing with the Kremlin

The conference, held in St. Petersburg and Moscow, billed itself as a “forum to cultivate awareness about home education, its legal framework, social and academic research, and practical experience around the world.” It was, according to the official page, “hugely successful.” Or as Carlson put it: “I think it was a very significant event.”

“[It] makes sense that we would find the leaders of America’s Christofascist homeschooling movement networking with Russians with whom they share ideological affinity.”

And that may have been true, in the context of homeschooling. But it was also a coup for sanctioned Russians seeking to connect with the American right.

One of the conference’s official co-sponsors, alongside the HSLDA and the far-right Alliance Defending Freedom, was Malofeev’s St. Basil the Great Charitable Foundation. And among the speakers — which included some of Russia’s most well-known anti-LGBTQ figures, like Dmitri Smirnov — was Yelena Mizulina, a Russian official sanctioned by the U.S. and widely credited for helping lead Moscow’s lurch toward far-right social policies over the past decade.

As the Obama White House announced when sanctioning Mizulina in 2014, she was partly responsible for “contributing to the crisis in Ukraine,” alongside Russian ultra-nationalists like Dmitry Rogozin and Sergey Glazyev. The Trump White House has continued to sanction Mizulina.

Donnelly told ThinkProgress that the HSLDA has “no links with sanctioned Russian officials and oligarchs.”

Sanctioned Russian official Yelena Mizulina, seen here at last year's WCF conference in Moldova, has been sanctioned by the U.S. since 2014. CREDIT: CASEY MICHEL
Sanctioned Russian official Yelena Mizulina, seen here at last year's WCF conference in Moldova, has been sanctioned by the U.S. since 2014. CREDIT: CASEY MICHEL
But in an interview with Pravoslavie, a website focused on Russian Orthodox affairs, Donnelly specifically pointed to Mizulina — who’s now in her fifth year under American sanctions — as a model partner for the HSLDA. “I think that Russia has a bright future in the field of family education,” Donnelly said. “[Russia has] official and very influential people who support this idea. For example, Yelena Mizulina.”

Brightbill noted that Mizulina’s support for homeschooling appears to be part of a broader Russian playbook, especially when it comes to building alliances with American far-right groups. “That probably plays a big part in what they were doing with Russia, and how they became so easily played by Russia, since Russian officials are telling them that they are on board with this idea of homeschooling as a human right,” Brightbill said.

Some of those who spoke at the conference, such as the WCF’s Carlson, tried to downplay the significance of sanctioned Russian officials’ and oligarchs’ involvement. “The thing just happened,” Carlson said.

Mike Donnelly speaks at last year's homeschooling conference in Russia, which hosted at least one sanctioned Russian official. CREDIT: GHEX
Mike Donnelly speaks at last year's homeschooling conference in Russia, which hosted at least one sanctioned Russian official. CREDIT: GHEX
“[It] makes sense that we would find the leaders of America’s Christofascist homeschooling movement networking with Russians with whom they share ideological affinity, even though homeschooling, like gun ownership, is uncommon in Russia,” Stroop said, using a term to refer to fundamentalist Christian ideas used in pursuit of totalitarian rule.

Donnelly said the HSLDA’s Russian partners made the decision to host Mizulina. “We didn’t invite her, the locals invited her,” he said. “It was a global event, but the locals had some control over who got to come. They wanted her there because of her support of homeschooling and because she’s very influential.”

But Brightbill doesn’t buy it. “HSLDA has acted as a clearinghouse for all these international homeschool organizations for years, so for them to say — ‘Oh, this isn’t them, they’re not the ones who are involved’ — it’s giving them distance and plausible deniability,” she said.

View image on TwitterView image on Twitter

Brian S. Brown
Honored to be speaking at the Global Home Education Conference in St. Petersburg. Homeschooling taking off in Russia. Great people; great conference. On to Moscow now. Spasibo! #homeschool

9:14 AM - May 16, 2018 · Saint Petersburg, Russia

See Brian S. Brown's other Tweets

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Donnelly said that it doesn’t necessarily matter that Mizulina is sanctioned, so long as she continues to back homeschooling.

“I’m very supportive of having people who are in power in a country speaking favorably about home education,” he said. “Mizulina, she’s on the sanctions list, but she’s obviously very influential in the Russian Duma. And so if the homeschooling movement in Russia is going to survive and thrive, they need to have support from influential people. And so [the U.S.] may not like Yelena Mizulina as a country for whatever reason, but in Russia she’s very influential, and she’s very interested [in] and supportive of home education.”

Homeschool infiltration

Donnelly added that no American officials have asked him why the HSLDA participated in the 2018 conference, or why the HSLDA co-sponsored an event that featured a sanctioned Russian official like Mizulina.

“If you want to get me in trouble, go ahead and make that the focus of your article.”

“No one’s knocked on my door [to ask why HSLDA co-sponsored an event with Mizulina],” he said. “Maybe they will if you start publicizing it. If you want to get me in trouble, go ahead and make that the focus of your article.”

Alexey Komov (back-center) appears with others at last year's homeschooling conference in Russia. CREDIT: FACEBOOK
While Donnelly said he has no plans to return to Russia in the foreseeable future, Russians who have been making inroads with the American religious right appear eager to continue their work.

“Our movements have the same issues, the same challenges, and as parents we really want what’s best for children,” Donnelly said in a 2017 video with Komov. “Would you agree that that’s what’s motivating Russian homeschooling?”

“Absolutely,” Komov responded, smiling beneath falling snow. “I think we have very similar issues — and we should be close together.” ... b5b5ad031/

4. How the same WCF Russian representative (who works directly for Konstantin Malofeev, still sanctioned by the U.S.) built up links with the biggest U.S. far-right "Christian film" organization:

5. And we got the diary of the WCF's American founder, from his first trip to Russia, detailing what they hoped to achieve—and how they'd do it. ... dd326841d/


There are at least three Russian figures sanctioned by the US and/or EU who are close to the WCF:

—Yelena Mizulina
—Vladimir Yakunin
—Konstantin Malofeev (whose employee, Alexey Komov, is the direct WCF Russian representative)

'The Metropol tape provides the first hard evidence of Russia’s clandestine attempts to fund Europe’s nationalist movements, and the apparent complicity of some senior figures from the far right in those attempts.'

'Opposition lawmakers in Italy demanded Thursday Salvini appear in Parliament about allegations that a covert Russian oil sale scheme was devised to fund his pro-Moscow League party.'

NEW: One of the alleged figures behind the secret Russia payment scheme to the Italian far-right also happens to be the main contact for a number of American Christian fundamentalist groups.

There's plenty in this on Alexey Komov, and his efforts to cozy up to American Christian fundamentalist groups.

Komov's somehow managed to escape sanctions thus far—though his boss hasn't.

NEW: One of the alleged figures behind the secret Russia payment scheme to the Italian far-right also happens to be the main contact for a number of American Christian fundamentalist groups. ... financing/
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Re: Russia Tried To Funnel Millions To The “European Trump”

Postby seemslikeadream » Sat Jul 13, 2019 3:13 pm

I Took Part In The Moscow Oil Deal Negotiation With Salvini’s Aide, Says An Italian Lawyer

In a letter to an Italian newspaper, Gianluca Meranda said he was prepared to cooperate with prosecutors investigating the proposed deal to channel funds to Matteo Salvini’s party.

Alberto Nardelli

Remo Casilli / Reuters
Posted on July 13, 2019, at 7:46 a.m. ET

An international lawyer has come forward to say that he was one of the Italians who took part in a meeting in Moscow last October along with a close aide of Italy’s far-right deputy prime minister where a proposed Russian-Italian oil deal was discussed.

Three days after BuzzFeed News revealed a bombshell recording of the negotiation at Moscow’s Metropol hotel on October 18 about the proposed deal that would have secretly channelled millions to Matteo Salvini’s Lega party, Gianluca Meranda wrote a letter to Italian newspaper La Repubblica confirming a meeting took place and that longtime Salvini aide Gianluca Savoini was present.

Meranda, who said he’d been a lawyer for 20 years, said the transactions had not been completed and that he was prepared to fully cooperate with public prosecutors who are now investigating the proposed deal over possible international corruption.

“I confirm that I met Dr. Glanluca Savoini and appreciated his absolute lack of personal interest in the few meetings we had in relation to these negotiations,” wrote Meranda, who said he was acting in the negotiation as general counsel for an unnamed “Anglo-American investment bank … interested in acquiring Russian oil products.”

While he could not name the other parties involved due to “the code of legal secrecy”, he continued: “The other participants at the Oct. 18 meeting were professionals who, with varying degrees of focus on this subject, are experts in international transactions of both the specific product (oil products) that at the time was the subject of the negotiations.

“As often is the case in this sector, despite the efforts by all parties, the transaction was not completed.”

On the recording published by BuzzFeed News, Savoini, Meranda, an Italian referred to on the tape as “Francesco” and the three Russians discussed the technical details of the proposed deal that would have covertly channeled about $65 million to Salvini’s party over the course of a year.

The men made clear that the purpose of the proposed deal was not to make money for themselves but to fund Lega and its European election campaign.

Under Italian law at the time, it was illegal for parties to accept donations over 100,000 euros, and since January, money from foreign donors has been banned altogether.

BuzzFeed News also published a full transcript of the recording.

Savoini can be heard on the tape stating that he was fine with the Russians taking extra “commission” for themselves from the proposed deal — described later in the meeting as “an amount to be returned” to them.

“They take even 400 or whatever the fuck they need to take,” he can be heard telling one of the other Italians. “It doesn’t matter. It’s a guarantee. It means they will always do that and for us it’s OK.”

In his letter to La Repubblica, Meranda said he had been surprised to learn from the media “that this meeting has led the public prosecutor to open an inquiry into international corruption or illegal funding to political parties.”

He continued: “I openly confess that I have not voted in 10 years. I have never been involved in funding political parties. I have never held any party role nor do I intend to begin now.

“As a man of law I understand that it is not my role to establish whether a crime has been committed, and should there be an investigation, I would be at the total disposal of prosecutors.”

His letter ended with a plea for a better kind of politics in Italy. “As a free man of good character, however, I hope that the country will free itself soon from this unbearable way of doing politics.”

Italian prosecutors announced on Thursday that their investigation into the Metropol meeting had been ongoing since February when some details of the Metropol meeting were first reported by the Italian magazine L’Espresso. Investigators are focusing on a hypothesis of "international corruption,” according to Italian media reports, which saideports Savoini is central to the inquiry.

Salvini has gone to great lengths to distance himself from his longtime aide since news of the investigation was made public. He told reporters on Friday morning that he did not know why Savoini attended an official trip to Moscow last July, which included a private meeting with the Russian interior minister.

Savoini told BuzzFeed News at the time that he was a “member of the minister’s staff.”

He said that he’d been a member of Salvini’s Lega party since 1991, and had always been a part of Salvini’s staff even before the now–interior minister entered government. He also explained that he’d helped organise all of Salvini’s trips to Moscow, and had taken part in past meetings with President Vladimir Putin in 2014, as well as with Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov and other senior Russian officials.

However, Savoini declined to expand on the precise nature of his role and duties in the minister’s staff, and whether these went beyond facilitating connections between Salvini and Moscow. ... gm#4ldqpgm
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Re: Russia Tried To Funnel Millions To The “European Trump”

Postby seemslikeadream » Thu Aug 08, 2019 12:02 pm

Flight Records Show Salvini's Aide Made A Lot Of Mysterious Trips To Moscow Around The Time Of The Secret Oil Deal Meeting
An investigation by BuzzFeed News, Bellingcat and The Insider has established that Gianluca Savoini travelled to Russia at least 14 times in 2018.

Alberto Nardelli
Posted on August 8, 2019, at 11:30 a.m. ET

Stefano Cavicchi / LaPresse / Alamy Stock Photo
Gianluca Savoini, the political operative at the centre of the storm over a secret plan to fund the far-right party of Italy’s deputy prime minister with Russian oil money, shuttled back and forth to Moscow on multiple mysterious trips last year that raise fresh questions about his links to Russia and the true purpose of his visits.

A joint investigation by BuzzFeed News, the investigative journalism website Bellingcat, and Russian news site The Insider has established that Savoini, a longtime aide to deputy prime minister Matteo Salvini, flew to Moscow on three separate occasions in the seven weeks running up to the crucial meeting at the Metropol hotel last October at which the proposed covert oil deal was discussed. He made a further three trips to Russia in the weeks immediately following.

Salvini did not attend the Metropol meeting, which took place on October 18, but he was in Moscow at the time. He has consistently refused to answer questions on whether he knew the meeting was taking place or was aware of the proposed oil deal. He has repeatedly insisted that he did not know what Savoini was doing in Moscow.

But BuzzFeed News, Bellingcat and The Insider can now reveal that a member of Salvini’s ministerial staff, Claudio D’Amico, was booked on the same Aeroflot flight as Savoini from Milan to Moscow on October 16 — SU2411 — and on the same return flight — SU2414 — on the evening of October 18, following the meeting at the Metropol that morning. D’Amico is Salvini’s strategic advisor on international affairs.

The revelation will ratchet up pressure on Salvini to answer questions about what he knew about the Moscow negotiation.

The data comes from analysis of Savoini and D’Amico’s flight booking records, cross-referenced with their social media activity. It reveals that Savoini has made an extraordinary number of trips to Russia over the last five years, with at least 14 visits in 2018 alone and a further three in the first three months of this year. On many occasions, he stayed for no more than a night or two, the records show.

It is not known who paid for the flights, who Savoini met when he was in Moscow or whether Salvini knew about the visits.

Savoini has worked with Salvini, the leader of the Lega party and Europe’s most powerful far-right leader, for 20 years and has been described as his “sherpa to Moscow”.

It can also be revealed that Savoini's dozens of travel entries over the course of the past five years do not appear in Russia’s Central Database for the Registration of Foreigners, known as the "migrant database”.

This database is maintained by the Russian interior ministry on the basis of mandatory landing cards which must be filled in by any non-citizens arriving into the country. In accordance with Russian law, any visiting foreigner must be registered into the central database, along with their travel data, such as visa number, passport data as well as port and time of entry and exit.

The absence of such data for Savioni suggests either he had a special status awarded upon arrival to individuals who, for example, don’t have to go through passport control or that the information was wiped from the database.

Last month, BuzzFeed News published the contents of an explosive recording of the October 18 Metropol meeting in which Savoini and five other men — two other Italians and three Russians — discussed in detail the plan to covertly channel tens of millions of dollars from an oil deal to sustain Lega’s European election campaign. BuzzFeed News has also released the entire transcript of the recording.

After the story was published, Italian prosecutors announced that they had been investigating the proposed oil deal since February. According to reports in Italian media, Savoini, who is Salvini’s former spokesperson, is under investigation for international corruption along with the two other Italian men — an international lawyer called Gianluca Meranda and Francesco Vannucci, a consultant and banking expert — who came forward after the BuzzFeed News report was published, saying that they’d attended the meeting at the Metropol Hotel with Savoini. They all deny wrongdoing and say a deal was never completed.

Savoini did not respond to a request for comment and a detailed set of questions emailed to him by BuzzFeed News.

Savoini's travel to Russia in 2018-19

BuzzFeed News
Source: Flight booking record, Facebook, Twitter
Savoini’s travel plans were pieced together in meticulous detail from flight booking records, obtained by Bellingcat via sources with access. The data shows that he was booked on flights between Italy and Russia at least five times in 2015, nine times in 2016, and seven times in 2017.

Italian newspaper, Corriere della Sera, revealed last month that on the evening before the Metropol meeting, October 17, Salvini had dinner at a Moscow restaurant called Ruski with D’Amico, three other members of his staff, Savoini, and the chiefs of Confindustria Russia, an industry group that hosted an event the Lega leader spoke at earlier that day. Salvini flew back to Italy on the 18th.

The flight records also show that D’Amico was booked on a flight from Milan to Moscow on October 2, just over two weeks before the Metropol meeting, and from the Russian capital to Grozny, in Chechnya, three days later. There is no social media evidence to corroborate whether he made that trip.

It appears to coincide with one of Savoini’s trips. The flight records show that he flew from Milan to Moscow on October 4, and a Facebook post places him in Grozny on October 5.

It is not known whether D’Amico knew about the Metropol meeting. He did not respond to a request for comment from BuzzFeed News.

D’Amico has been booked to travel to Russia four times since joining Salvini’s team last August; in addition to the October flights, he was also booked to fly in January this year, and again in February.

There is no guarantee that Savoini and D’Amico boarded all the flights they were booked on, but the booking records have been cross-referenced with their abundant social media activity which confirms they were in Russia, often together, on many of those dates.

There is also the possibility that there may be brief gaps in the data due to the two men using different passports.

Stefano Cavicchi / La Presse / Alamy Stock Photo
Savoini, Salvini, and D'Amico (far right) meet with Russian officials in Moscow on November 18, 2016.
Another Italian newspaper, La Repubblica reported in July that Savoini met in Rome with Aleksandr Dugin, a high-profile Russian far-right ideologue and political analyst, on September 25 last year. The newspaper claimed that Savoini travelled to the Italian capital from Moscow the previous day. His flight records suggest that he was booked on Aeroflot flight SU2404, from Moscow to Rome, on September 24.

He was also photographed in Moscow with Dugin the day before the Metropol meeting and in the audio recording of the meeting he can be heard telling the other Italians that “Aleksandr” had described him as the “total connection” between the Italian and Russian sides.

Savoini joined Lega leader Salvini on several of his journeys to Russia, including three trips in quick succession between October 2014 and February 2015, as well as trips in November 2016 and in March 2017 to sign a partnership agreement with Vladimir Putin’s United Russia party among others. Salvini, Savoini and D'Amico travelled together to annexed Crimea in 2014 and 2016.

In 2016, Savoini and D’Amico co-founded a company in Russia, called Orion, company registration data shows. D’Amico is also the company’s director, which is seemingly at odds with a filing of external interests with the local council where he works in Italy. In that document D’Amico stated to have been the firm’s director since 2018., Provided
Orion's company registration documents show that D'Amico co-founded the firm, and is a director, since 2016. His declaration of external interests filed this year states that he is a director since 2018. In his 2017 filing, Orion isn't mentioned at all.
D’Amico did not respond to specific questions asking about the discrepancy between these two dates.

He joined Salvini’s team as a strategic advisor on international affairs in August last year, a document dated 30 January 2019 shows. The €65,000-a-year appointment was made through a decree of the deputy prime minister.

D’Amico is also listed on the team page of the pro-Kremlin organization Lombardy-Russia, headed by Savoini.

Both Savoini and D’Amico sat in on Salvini’s official meetings with the Russian interior minister, Vladimir Kolokoltsev last July — even before D’Amico had officially joined Salvini’s staff.

Salvini, who is also Italy’s interior minister, has long denied that Savoini was a member of his official delegation to Moscow on that trip. But these denials were directly contradicted by Italian prime minister Giuseppe Conte during a parliamentary debate last month after BuzzFeed News revealed the recording of the Metropol meeting. Conte told MPs that Savoini was on Salvini’s official delegation to the Russian capital, yet Salvini’s transparency filing for last July doesn’t disclose any trips, costs or external participants on his delegation.

Salvini did not respond to a request for comment and a detailed set of questions emailed to his office this week, including whether the government had funded Savoini or D’Amico’s participation in his delegation to Moscow last July. BuzzFeed News also asked Salvini again whether he knew about the Metropol meeting. He ignored that question too.

The Lega leader has so far refused to address parliament and answer MPs’ and reporters’ questions about what he knows of the Metropol negotiation. He has consistently and vehemently denied ever taking any funding from Russian sources.
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Re: Russia Tried To Funnel Millions To The “European Trump”

Postby seemslikeadream » Tue Aug 20, 2019 12:52 pm

Italy government crisis: PM Conte to quit amid coalition row
Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte (C) is flanked by Deputy Prime Ministers Matteo Salvini (L) and Luigi Di MaioEPA
Italy's PM Giuseppe Conte addresses the Senate flanked by Matteo Salvini (L) and Luigi Di Maio
After a blistering attack on coalition partner Matteo Salvini, Italy's Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte has said he will tender his resignation.

Mr Conte said Mr Salvini had been "irresponsible" in creating a new political crisis for Italy for "personal and party interests".

Mr Salvini, the leader of the nationalist League party, had tabled a no-confidence motion against Mr Conte.

He also said he could no longer work with his coalition partners Five Star.

The League and the anti-establishment Five Star Movement formed a coalition to govern just 14 months ago with Mr Conte as an independent as prime minister.

What did the PM say about Salvini?

Addressing the Senate on Tuesday, Mr Conte said the League leader, who was sitting beside him, had been "looking for a pretext to return to the polls" since his party's success in European elections in May.

In those elections, the League came top with 34% of the votes in Italy, whereas Five Star got about 17%.

Salvini: Can Italy trust this man?
Italy shuts Europe's one-time largest migrant camp
Mr Conte warned that Mr Salvini had undermined the function of the government, "which stops here".

"It is irresponsible to initiate a government crisis. It shows personal and party interests," he said.

He also criticised Mr Salvini's use of "combining political slogans and religious symbols at rallies", calling it "unconscionable".

"I take this opportunity to announce that I will present my resignation as head of government to the president of the republic," he added.

What have the coalition leaders said?

"I did not speak ill of some colleagues, but as minister of the interior I delivered a safer Italy in the past year of government," Mr Salvini told the Senate.

"I am not afraid of the judgement of Italians," he added, referring to his earlier call for fresh elections.

He went on to say that while he had been accused of leading a party of "alleged fascists", the League was the only party pushing for a democratic vote. "Imagine that," he said, "the dictatorship that wants the vote of the Italian people".

"All politicians are to blame"
Five Star leader Luigi Di Maio, meanwhile, said his party did not fear another election.

In a Facebook post ahead of Mr Conte's address, Mr Di Maio said it was "the day when the League will have to answer for its faults for having decided to bring everything down, opening a government crisis in the middle of August".

He added that working with Mr Conte "was an honour".

What happens next?

Mr Conte was due to present his resignation letter to President Sergio Mattarella for approval after the Senate debate.

The next step is in the president's hands. Mr Mattarella could call early elections but he could also decide to announce discussions with party leaders on forming a new coalition government - which could begin as early as Wednesday morning.

While Mr Salvini is ahead in the polls, he is unlikely to have enough support to become prime minister. He indicated on Tuesday that he was prepared to work with his coalition partners to secure budget reforms ahead of early elections.

Five Star, meanwhile, are said to have been in discussions with the centre-left opposition Democratic Party (PD) about forming an alternative coalition.

Matteo Renzi, former leader of the PD and prime minister, has returned to frontline politics, saying Mr Salvini must be stopped.

He has called for a technocratic caretaker government.

The coalition talks represent a change of tack for Five Star. Mr Di Maio said recently that "nobody wants to sit at the table with Renzi". This uneasy relationship could make it difficult to form a government.
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Re: Russia Tried To Funnel Millions To The “European Trump”

Postby seemslikeadream » Tue Sep 03, 2019 7:21 am

Unmasked: The Russian Men At The Heart Of Italy’s Russian Oil Scandal

Alberto Nardelli
The identities of the Russian men behind the proposed oil deal to fund Italy’s far right have been shrouded in mystery — until now. Their connections extend into Vladimir Putin’s inner circle.

Obtained / YouTube
Andrey Yuryevich Kharchenko (left) and Ilya Andreevich Yakunin.
Two men with deep ties to top figures in Russian politics are the voices caught on tape negotiating a proposed oil deal to fund Matteo Salvini’s far-right Lega party, according to new analysis revealed today.

In July, BuzzFeed News uncovered an explosive audio recording of longtime Salvini aide Gianluca Savoini discussing a plan to covertly channel tens of millions of dollars of Russian oil money toward Lega’s upcoming European election campaign. The revelations have rocked Italian politics, and prosecutors in Milan are investigating the proposed deal. But the Russian men heard discussing the plan with Savoini and two other Italians at Moscow’s Metropol hotel last October have remained shrouded in mystery.

Now a joint investigation by BuzzFeed News, the investigative journalism website Bellingcat, and Russian news site the Insider has identified two of the three Russian voices heard on the recording: Andrey Yuryevich Kharchenko and Ilya Andreevich Yakunin. They have links to the high-profile far-right demagogue Aleksandr Dugin and to Vladimir Pligin, a politician deeply enmeshed in President Vladimir Putin’s inner circle.

Dugin is the father of an ideology that Putin has embraced in recent years, which sees a resurgent Russia standing as a bulwark against the liberal west. Pligin played a major role in one of Putin’s most hostile foreign policy moves, working on drafting a law in the country’s parliament certifying the 2014 annexation of Crimea.

Neither Dugin nor Pligin attended the Oct. 18 Metropol meeting, but both were namechecked on the recording. One voice, as yet unidentified, declared that they needed Pligin’s “green light” before moving forward with the negotiations. And the day before the meeting, Dugin was photographed meeting with Savoini, while Salvini reportedly met with the Russian deputy prime minister Dmitry Kozak at Pligin’s office.

The identities of two of the Russian attendees will pile renewed pressure on Salvini, Europe’s most powerful far-right leader, to explain whether he had any knowledge of the proposed deal or of the involvement of Savoini, a longtime aide who has been described as his "sherpa to Moscow." The new revelations also raise further questions about who was orchestrating the Russian side of the deal — and from how high up in Moscow.

Reached by phone on Monday, Pligin told the Insider: “I have no relationship with these people.” Kharchenko, Yakunin, and Dugin did not respond to multiple requests for comment, or to detailed questions.

Salvini did not attend the Metropol meeting, but he was in Moscow at the time. He has consistently refused to answer questions about whether he knew the meeting was taking place or was aware of the proposed oil deal.

The identities of Yakunin and Kharchenko were established by matching their voices to other recordings. Yakunin’s voice can be heard on an interview he conducted with the Russian TV channel Arkhyz 24 in December 2017. Kharchenko’s voice was captured by The Insider during a telephone call last month.

Analysis by Bellingcat comparing voice intonation, speech mannerisms, and sound frequency has determined with a high degree of confidence that Kharchenko’s and Yakunin’s voices match two of the men on the Metropol tape.


At the Metropol, Yakunin explains why the proposed deal should be structured using known oil companies. While in the clip taken from an interview with Russian television he's talking about regional investments.

The recordings of Yakunin’s voice have been sent to specialists at the National Center for Media Forensics at the University of Colorado Denver for a full forensic analysis. (The audio quality of Kharchenko’s voice on the Metropol tape is not high enough for such an in-depth analysis.)


In this section from the Metropol meeting, Kharchenko talks about the need to discuss the final details of the proposed oil deal. While in the telephone conversation he is talking about his dissertation with a reporter.

BuzzFeed News, Bellingcat, and the Insider also analyzed travel and company records, online and social media activity, and information contained in other databases, to piece together a profile of Yakunin and Kharchenko and their links to Dugin and Pligin.

Lehtikuva / Reuters
Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The Italian magazine L’Espresso first reported Yakunin’s name in February, but didn’t provide any further details. BuzzFeed News, Bellingcat, and the Insider can now confirm that it is Yakunin’s voice, which can be heard declaring on the recording that “we are waiting for Mr. Pligin to return” before discussing the proposed oil deal further.


A longtime member of Putin’s United Russia party, Pligin is also a former senior member of parliament. His work on legislation to annex Crimea landed him on a European Union sanctions list. He co-founded a law firm with Deputy Prime Minister Kozak, a powerbroker — known as the “Cheshire Cat” because of his smile — who served as Putin’s chief of staff when he first became president, and who the US recently put on its sanctions list as a “member of the Russian leadership’s inner circle.” Pligin was also a student of Anatoly Sobchak, the former mayor of St. Petersburg known for kickstarting Putin’s political career.

Pligin’s connection to Yakunin goes beyond the Metropol recording. In 2002, Yakunin took up a management position at the Agency of Direct Investments, a firm that focuses on major industries including oil and gas. The firm is controlled by a company that counts Pligin as one of its six founders and shareholders, records show. An employee at the agency told BuzzFeed News that Yakunin no longer works at the company.

The ties to Dugin come from Kharchenko, who has been quoted in Russian media as an employee of Dugin’s far-right political group, International Eurasian Movement.

But other details raise questions about what, exactly, Kharchenko does for a living. His name is nowhere to be found on the organisation’s website, and, according to two sources with access to the information, his tax records for the past five years are empty, showing no official income.

Asked in a brief phone interview with the Insider last month why there was so little information about him online, Kharchenko said that he often published his writings using a pseudonym, but declined to say what it was. This week, BuzzFeed News sent Kharchenko multiple requests for comment on his role at the Metropol meeting. He did not respond.

Kharchenko has traveled with Dugin on a number of foreign trips, including a November 2016 visit to Crimea to host a Turkish delegation, which included an adviser to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. He also traveled with Dugin to Ankara that same month. On that trip, Kharchenko used a service passport, a document typically given to government or state employees.

Marta Allevato / Via Twitter: @MartaAllevato
When Dugin met with Savoini the day before the Metropol meeting, an Italian journalist posted a photograph on Twitter showing them standing with another, unidentified man.

There is a high probability that that man, standing with his back to the camera, is Kharchenko, according to a Bellingcat analysis comparing body measurements — such as the length of his arms relative to his height, as well as his posture and hair shape — to other photos of Kharchenko standing next to Dugin. However, because of the lack of specific features in the tweeted image, for example his ears aren't properly visible, it is not possible to provide a definitive forensic match.

Kharchenko, who was born in Azerbaijan in March 1980 but became a Russian citizen 15 years later, is deeply sympathetic to Dugin’s ideology. Dugin even oversaw Kharchenko’s PhD in philosophy. Kharchenko’s 137-page dissertation focuses on the destructive qualities of globalization, cellphones, and selfies.

Antonio Parrinello / Reuters
Salvini poses for a selfie with supporters at the Caparena beach in the Sicilian seaside town of Taormina in August.
Dugin has longstanding connections to the Russian government. He is the son of a KGB officer, and served as an adviser to Sergei Naryshkin, a former chairman of the State Duma who is now the director of Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service.

Dugin’s Facebook profile is filled with pictures of the far-right ideologue at events, nationalist posters and slogans, materials promoting his work, and flattering press photographs of nationalist politicians. It also features several images of Salvini and Savoini.

In November 2016, Dugin interviewed Salvini about the election of Donald Trump and the future of Europe. “The EU, being an unnatural structure, has already started crumbling,” Salvini declared. “The European Union is a cell, the opposite of democracy.”

Dugin’s relationship with Savoini, the Salvini aide at the centre of the Metropol scandal, appears to go back even further: Savoini has previously told BuzzFeed News that he has known Dugin for more than two decades. The Facebook page of Lombardy-Russia, the pro-Kremlin organisation led by Savoini, is packed with photos of the two men together.

On the Metropol recording, Savoini can be heard telling the other Italians that “Aleksandr” had described Savoini as the “total connection” between the Italian and Russian sides — an apparent reference to Dugin.

Savoini also met with Dugin in Rome on Sept. 25, just a few weeks before the meeting. His flight booking records suggest that he was booked on Aeroflot flight SU2404, from Moscow to Rome, the previous day.

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While much of Kharchenko’s background remains a mystery, a lot more can be pieced together about his counterpart Yakunin, who has ties to the influential politician Pligin.

A LinkedIn profile claiming to belong to Yakunin suggests that he attended the Moscow State Institute of International Relations, which was once dubbed the “Harvard of Russia” by Henry Kissinger. The university is run by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and is well-known for educating the country’s top diplomats, as well as its spies.

Yakunin has spent much of his career working for firms with strong links to the Russian state. According to one news report, he has worked closely with some of Russia’s biggest companies, including Gazprom and Russian Railways. In 2016, he was appointed deputy director general of the North Caucasus Development Corporation, a firm created to attract investments and implement major infrastructure projects in the region. It was founded in 2010 by Vnesheconombank, a state-funded development bank under US Treasury sanctions and which has been accused of supporting the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Two years ago the bank transferred control of the corporation directly to the Russian state.

An employee at the North Caucasus Development Corporation told BuzzFeed News that Yakunin no longer worked there.

More recently, Yakunin has referred to himself as the deputy director general of a new company called the Eurasian Trade and Logistics Centre. Records show that the company was created in February 2018. Its director Vladimir Georgievich Sobinsky, is a member of the United Russia party and an influential politician in Karelia, a region in the country’s northwest.

One of the centre's shareholders is a company controlled by the Russian conglomerate Sistema, a multi-billion dollar investment company listed on the London Stock Exchange and run by the billionaire Vladimir Yevtushenkov.

Reached by phone on Monday, a spokesperson at the centre told BuzzFeed News that Yakunin doesn’t work there, and hung up.

Sistema did not respond to requests for comment.

When Yakunin can be heard on the Metropol recording saying that “we are waiting for Mr. Pligin to return,” it is not clear where he is waiting for Pligin to return from. Pligin’s exact role in the affair, if any, is not yet known.

Elsewhere on the recording, Russian voices can be heard referring to “yesterday’s meeting,” and discussing how they would have to feed details back to the “deputy prime minister” — details that would seem to line up with the alleged meeting between Salvini and Deputy Prime Minister Kozak held at Pligin’s office, which L’Espresso reported in February.

Andreas Solaro / AFP / Getty Images
Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte and Salvini, as Conte delivers his resignation speech at the Italian Senate last month.
Salvini has not denied the Kozak-Pligin meeting, saying instead he simply couldn’t recall. “I can’t remember what I did the day before yesterday,” he said in an Italian television interview. “It’s hard to remember what I did on October 17.”

He added: “If the meeting did take place, it would be absolutely legitimate, and indeed proper.” Kozak has previously denied that he participated in the meeting.

Italian prosecutors announced after the BuzzFeed News revelations that they were looking into whether Savoini and the two other Italians at the meeting had engaged in “international corruption.” In August, BuzzFeed News, Bellingcat, and the Insider revealed that Savoini travelled to Russia at least 14 times in 2018, and that a member of Salvini’s staff was booked on the same Aeroflot flights as Savoini from Milan to Moscow on Oct. 16 and on the evening of Oct. 18, following the meeting at the Metropol that morning.

These revelations have come at the same time the Italian government has spun into crisis and collapsed, after Salvini pulled the plug on his coalition with the populist Five Star Movement. Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said he would step down, and during his resignation speech lambasted Salvini over his refusal to address parliament about the Metropol revelations or share any information about it with Conte’s office.

Salvini has tried to force a snap election, but that looks to have failed. The Five Star Movement is now on the brink of forming a new government with the centre-left Democratic Party, a move that would see Salvini lose his job as deputy prime minister and interior minister.

Salvini has refused to answer an avalanche of questions from MPs and reporters about what he knows of the meeting. He and Savoini did not respond to requests for comment for this article.

Aside from Savoini, two other Italian men attended the Metropol meeting. Both men — an international lawyer Gianluca Meranda and Francesco Vannucci, a consultant and banking expert — have come forward since the recording was exposed. They both deny wrongdoing and say a deal was never completed.

Only one man from that meeting remains unidentified: A third Russian man, referred to as “Yuri.” ... russia-oil
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Re: Russia Tried To Funnel Millions To The “European Trump”

Postby seemslikeadream » Tue Sep 03, 2019 10:03 pm

A major Russian financing scandal connects to America’s Christian fundamentalists
After an explosive revelation in Italy, new questions surface about the World Congress of Families.

Jul 12, 2019, 8:00 am
Alexey Komov, who has numerous ties with American Christian fundamentalists, stands at the heart of recent revelations about secret Russian financing for the Italian far-right. CREDIT: YOUTUBE

A series of reports over the past few months have pulled back the curtain on discussions about secret funding from Russia to far-right forces in Europe.

Now, there are new questions about the connection the funding has with perhaps the most notorious international anti-LGBTQ group in existence — a joint Russian-American brainchild called the World Congress of Families (WCF).

The recent revelations, which burst forth earlier this year, center on backroom discussions between allies of Italian Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini and Russian associates connected to Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak. The discussions, which BuzzFeed News published audio of earlier this week, center on a kickback scheme involving tens of millions of dollars in fuel discounts secretly passed to Salvini’s far-right Lega party.

Salvini denied all knowledge of discussions, but his aide, Gianluca Savoini, was forced to walk back previous denials of his attendance at the meeting, which took place last October. The tape, as BuzzFeed noted, “provides the first hard evidence of Russia’s clandestine attempts to fund Europe’s nationalist movements, and the apparent complicity of some senior figures from the far right in those attempts.”

Still, the revelations aren’t necessarily surprising. After all, Salvini has been outspoken for years about his sympathy for the Kremlin, going so far as to publicly wear shirts calling for “NO sanctions against RUSSIA.” Salvini, as well as Savoini, even mingled with Putin earlier this month.

Savoini Gianluca
Con grande piacere ho partecipato alla cena governativa in onore della visita di Vladimir Putin in Italia. @KremlinRussia_E @matteosalvinimi @LegaSalvini
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Beyond the rhetorical support — and the clear efforts at putting together illicit financing to back Salvini’s far-right efforts — there’s another connection between Salvini and his allies and Russian financing that hasn’t seen much coverage in American press: the WCF.

For years, the WCF has acted as the primary bridge between American Christian fundamentalists and Russian partners. Helping export regressive anti-LGBTQ policies to Russia, the WCF has served as a platform since the mid-1990s for bringing together some of the most backward, homophobic voices internationally.

Along the way, it has also picked up financing and support from numerous Russian officials and oligarchs specifically sanctioned by the United States. Former Russian Railways chief Vladimir Yakunin and sanctioned Russian oligarch Konstantin Malofeev have both served as patrons of the WCF’s efforts, especially over the past few years, even going so far as to reportedly directly fund and sponsor WCF-related events.

Russians and the American right started plotting in 1995. We have the notes from the first meeting.

Just last year, Yelena Mizulina, a Russian Duma member, was a featured speaker at the WCF’s annual conference, where she joined speakers railing against progressive policies. At the close of the conference, WCF chief Brian Brown called for those assembled to celebrate the “depths of … friendships” between the American and Russian figures featured at the event, claiming they were “creating friendships of trust.”

But that’s not all. Over the years, the WCF’s Russian representative, Alexey Komov — who works directly for the sanctioned Malofeev — has tried to ingratiate himself with numerous American far-right organizations. As ThinkProgress has detailed, these groups range from the far-right Home School Legal Defense Association, which has grown close to Komov over the past few years, to Movieguide, the leading American Christian film organization. Komov even managed in 2014 to schmooze with Ben Carson, now President Donald Trump’s secretary of Housing and Urban Development, and tried to connect with other right-wing fundraisers in the United States shortly afterward.

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Indeed, Komov is at the heart of the burgeoning relationship between America’s Christian fundamentalist contingent that looks warmly at the Kremlin and the financiers behind Russian designs, and the cultivation of far-right forces abroad.

As such, it’s unsurprising that Komov is also directly implicated in the new revelations out of Italy. The Italian exposé of the attempted financing between Salvini’s party and Russia pinned the idea on Komov directly, who reportedly worked in tandem with Savoini and neo-fascist figure Alexander Dugin to put the plan together.

Komov already has a clear history with Savoini. Savoini oversees the Lombardy-Russia Cultural Association, a group whose honorary chair is Komov. As The New York Times reported this week, the Lombardy-Russia Cultural Association stands at the heart of the swelling links between Italy’s far right and its Russian patrons, as it was “founded in 2014 explicitly to reflect [Vladimir] Putin’s worldview.”

Komov and Savoini listed in the Lombardy-Russia website.
Komov hasn’t been shy about his links with Salvini’s supporters. “We are your brothers in Russia,” Komov said at a 2013 meeting of the Lega party. “We support your values.”

At the close of his speech, Komov yelled, “Putin!”

Thanks to these links between Komov and Salvini’s network, Salvini landed a spot as a featured speaker at this year’s WCF conference, in Italy. The conference — which was attended by Komov — was the brainchild of Salvini associate Lorenzo Fontana, whom Salvini recently tapped as Italy’s new European affairs minister.

The links between Komov, Salvini, and those caught on tape this week plotting secret Russian financing for Italy’s far right are clear. So, too, are the ties both of them — as well as Komov’s sanctioned employer, and the other sanctioned Russian individuals — have with the World Congress of Families, and America’s broad network of far-right fundamentalists. Whether any similar audio comes forward on the American side remains to be seen. ... 3d4de4a90/
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Re: Russia Tried To Funnel Millions To The “European Trump”

Postby seemslikeadream » Thu Sep 05, 2019 10:05 pm

Italy successfully ejects far-right leader Salvini as new government is sworn in
Matteo Salvini, leader of League party, claims ‘strong powers’ in Europe behind new coalition

Samuel Osborne
7 hours ago
Italy’s new government was sworn in on Thursday after the pro-European Democratic Party (PD) joined the anti-establishment Five Star Movement (M5S) in an unlikely alliance that has forced the far-right out of power.

Giuseppe Conte, the independent prime minister, led his new team of seven women and 14 men in a swearing-in ceremony in the presidential palace.

Mr Conte’s first, 14-month-long coalition, collapsed after his right-wing League partner, led by Matteo Salvini, pulled out in the hope of triggering an early election he was certain his party would win.

However, Mr Salvini failed to foresee that M5S and the PD would put aside their differences and form an unlikely alliance.

Former PD prime minister Paolo Gentiloni looks set to become Italy’s next EU commissioner and the party has taken charge of the economy ministry and the European affairs ministry – appointments which should guarantee improved relations with Brussels and be welcomed by financial markets.

In the clearest break from the past government, the interior ministry, previously headed by Mr Salvini, was handed to migration specialist Luciana Lamorgese.

Unlike Mr Salvini, who critics said spent more time on Twitter than in his ministry, Ms Lamorgese has no social media presence and will adopt a much lower profile than her predecessor as she works with Brussels to draw up new migration rules.

By the middle of May, Mr Salvini was reported to have only gone to his ministry for 17 days since the start of the year, a figure he has not publicly disputed.

The government will need to win confidence motions in the lower and upper houses of parliament before it can become fully operational.

Mr Conte is expected to win both votes, which are slated for Monday and Tuesday. ... 92876.html
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Re: Russia Tried To Funnel Millions To The “European Trump”

Postby Jerky » Sun Oct 06, 2019 11:25 pm


Surely this is all just mainstream globalist neo-liberal LIES manufactured by the inveterately anti-Putin/anti-Trump/anti-JESUS evil CeeAyeEhy, surely?

I mean... SURELY?!?!?

I think we have to wait until we see what Sputnik, RT, InfoWars and Tucker Carlson has to say about all this before we come to any conclusions.

yer old pal Jerky
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Re: Russia Tried To Funnel Millions To The “European Trump”

Postby Grizzly » Mon Oct 07, 2019 12:41 am

If Barthes can forgive me, “What the public wants is the image of passion Justice, not passion Justice itself.”
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Re: Russia Tried To Funnel Millions To The “European Trump”

Postby Jerky » Mon Oct 07, 2019 2:32 am

Question for you, Grizzly...

Do you actually believe this shit?
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