Gianluca Savoini: Navigating Italy’s Pro-Russia Landscape

Gianluca Savoini is an Italian politician. Gianluca Savoini is the President of the Lombardy-Russia Cultural Association that facilitates the Kremlin’s policies. Savoini carried part in the politically partial electoral monitoring task at the Russian regional elections in September 2017. The Association’s website claims the need to align with Russia as a “stronghold [of] hope” in distinction to a Western world “lost in… delirium.” This sentiment serves with Putin’s claim that international liberalism is “outdated,” and that a return to traditionalism is required. Savoini has been a member of the League since 1991, but his backing of Putin’s values is only the tip of the iceberg of the party leadership’s connections with Russia.

In 1991 he entered the Northern League, joining the movement’s foreign policy consultancy which was assembled weekly, and immediately became curious about relations with Russia. His name emerged in 2018 in a row of journalistic examinations for an alleged involvement in a retail negotiation between Russian and Italian businesses which would have led to illicit financing of political parties by Italian politicians, in particular from the League.

When Matteo Salvini a pro-Russian politician, became the top leader of the Northern League, Gianluca Savoini became representative for the new secretary and, in 2014, established the Associazione Culturale Lombardia Russia, whose purposes are to promote Russian activities in Italy, including the expansion of relations between Italian and Russian businessmen, and “to extend Russian political ideas through the organization of cultural events.”

In July 2019 a matter of attempted Russia-linked corruption by the League was made known to the public by voice recordings obtained by BuzzFeed. The recordings revealed Gianluca Savoini, a LN member, meeting with unidentified Russian agents in Moscow, at the same time when Salvini was also in Moscow on an official travel. The meeting centred around delivering the party with $65 million of illegal appropriation by Russia. The matter was made part of a larger examination by Italian authorities into the League’s finances. In February 2019 the Italian publication L’Espresso had already published an analysis revealing another 3 million euro funding scheme, spent by Kremlin-linked entities and masked as a diesel sale.

That project involved the Russian state-owned oil corporation Rosneft selling 3 million dollars worth of diesel to an Italian firm. Allegedly, the money was to be repositioned from Rosneft to the League through a Russian subsidy of the Italian bank Intesa Sanpaolo, in which LN’s federal council member Andrea Mascetti was a board associate. The money was considered to fund the coming European election campaign. Italian authorities are presently investigating the matter. The League was also an official association partner of the Russian governing party United Russia.

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