Here’s A Totally Incredible Story About Pro-Russian Mercenaries And A Close Aide To Italy’s De Facto Leader

Gianluca Savoini is not under investigation, but his alleged links to far-right extremists, according to court papers, raise new questions about his relationship with Matteo Salvini. A close aide to Italy’s hard-right de facto leader has links to mercenaries fighting alongside pro-Russian and neo-Nazi militias in Ukraine, according to court documents seen by BuzzFeed News that will increase concerns about the Italian government’s relationship with Moscow. The documents say that Gianluca Savoini has had contact with one of 10 people Italian prosecutors have accused of recruiting and supporting far-right mercenaries in Donbass, a region in Eastern Ukraine. As previously reported by BuzzFeed News, Savoini is a longtime aide to Matteo Salvini — who in June became Italy’s interior minister and deputy prime minister — and accompanied him on an official government visit to Moscow in July in an unclear capacity. European diplomats have already expressed concern about the relationship between Italy’s new government — a coalition between the nationalist Lega party, which Salvini leads, and the populist antiestablishment Five Star Movement — and Russia. Russian-backed militias have occupied Eastern Ukraine’s Donbass region since 2014, in a war with Ukraine that has claimed the lives of more than 10,000 people, and which followed Russian President Vladimir Putin’s annexation of Crimea. The conflict is still ongoing, and Donbass is home to two separatist republics, neither of which are recognized internationally. According to the court documents, Savoini, 54, has been in contact with a 25-year-old Italian man called Orazio Maria Gnerre, who is now under investigation as one of 10 people — nine men and one woman — accused by prosecutors. The court papers also mention the pro-Kremlin cultural organization Savoini presides over, Lombardy-Russia, stating that one of its members participated in a gathering of nationalist political parties in St. Petersburg in March 2015, along with Gnerre and another individual under investigation as part of the same case. Present at the meeting, which the court documents claim was organized by Russia’s nationalist Rodina party with the support of the Kremlin, were military commanders from separatist paramilitary units in eastern Ukraine, and what Italian prosecutors describe as “numerous European neo-Nazi, anti-Semitic, and homophobic militants.”

via buzzfeed: Here’s A Totally Incredible Story About Pro-Russian Mercenaries And A Close Aide To Italy’s De Facto Leader

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