Italy: Salvini adviser sought lobbyist’s Putin dinner invite

Giuseppe Conte, Vladimir Putin

Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte, right, and Russian President Vladimir Putin pose for a photo at the Chigi palace in Rome, Thursday, July 4, 2019. Putin emphasized historically strong ties with Italy during a one-day visit to Rome that included a meeting with Pope Francis. (Alexei Druzhinin, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

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ROME (AP) — The Italian premier’s office says a lobbyist with past links to Deputy Premier Matteo Salvini was invited to a dinner honoring Russian President Vladimir Putin at the request of Salvini’s international strategy adviser.

Premier Giuseppe Conte’s office issued a statement about the invitation on Sunday as scandal swirled around Salvini’s far-right, pro-Moscow party, the League.

Salvini associate Gianluca Savoini is under investigation in Italy for allegedly seeking Russian money for the League. Italian newsweekly L’Espresso reported earlier this year that Savoini discussed the idea in Russia last year.

Savoini attended a dinner Conte hosted for Putin on July 4.

The League is the junior partner in Italy’s populist government. Salvini’s rival deputy premier, 5-Star Movement leader Luigi Di Maio, pressed Sunday for a parliamentary inquiry on political party financing.

Opposition lawmakers have called Salvini’s resignation.

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