Bolsonaro’s European allies accused of taking money from Putin

Key allies of President Jair Bolsonaro (PL) in Europe are accused of receiving resources from Russian President Vladimir Putin for election campaigns or political movements. In Italy, Germany, Spain, France and Hungary, far-right groups are being criticized and questioned for their ties to the Kremlin.

The Italian Matteo Salvini is one of Bolsonaro’s main allies in Europe. The two leaders were together in November 2021, when the Brazilian visited his ancestral city in northern Italy.

Salvini shirt

In early March, with war already raging, Salvini visited a Polish town on the border with Ukraine to offer his support for Ukrainian refugees.

But his journey turned into a disaster. Upon receiving him in Przemysl, the Italian was surprised with an unexpected gesture. The local mayor gave the Italian far-right leader a gift: a T-shirt with Vladimir Putin’s face engraved on it and an inscription in Russian: “Putin’s Army”.

The shirt was the same shirt that Salvini wore in 2014 on Red Square in Moscow. “We would like to go with you to the border and to the refugee reception center so that you can see for yourself what your friend Putin has done with all those people crossing the border, about 50,000 people a day,” lamented, angrily, the mayor. Salvini walked away, as locals called him “the clown, the clown.”

The sound of meeting with the Russians

In 2019, Buzzfeed News opened up a deep crisis in Italian politics by revealing an audio clip of a meeting between key aides to Salvini, the Italian deputy prime minister at the time, and representatives of Putin. The meeting took place in October 2018 in Moscow. On the agenda were “grand coalition” negotiations.

Officially, the agreement on oil will be discussed. But, according to the publication, “the real goal was to undermine liberal democracies and form a new nationalist Europe, allied with Moscow.”

What Salvini’s personal assistant said

One of the interlocutors at the meeting was Gianluca Savoyni, Salvini’s former spokesman and personal assistant who ran a pro-Russian cultural association. This is the starting point for the discussion:

“It is very important, in this historical geopolitical period, for Europe to change. Next May, it will be the European elections. We want to change Europe,” he says.

He continues: “The new Europe should be close to Russia, as before, because we want to have our sovereignty. We really want to decide our future, Italians, for the sake of our children. We do not depend on the decision of the enlightened Brussels, the United States. Decide. “

The aide then cites Salvini and his European allies. “Salvini is the first man who wants to change all of Europe. Together, our allies, colleagues and other parties in Europe. Freiheitliche Partei Österreichs (Austrian Freedom Party) in Austria, Alt für Deutschland (Alternative for Germany), Madame Le Pen, and other same countries, Hungary with Orbán Sweden, Sverigedemokraterna (Sweden Democrats). We have allies. We really want to start a grand alliance with these pro-Russian, but not pro-Russian parties, but for the sake of our country. “

In the recording, the interlocutors refer to the terms of an agreement to secretly transfer tens of millions of dollars of Russian oil to a party SalviniNorthern League.

Salvini, in the days following the revelation, denied receiving money from the Russians. “I didn’t get rubles, euros, dollars or a liter of vodka as funding from Russia,” Salvini said. In power, he tried to bring Italy closer to Russian President Vladimir Putin and made several visits to Moscow. “Salvini has a welcoming attitude towards our country,” said the Kremlin chief.

Behind the scenes of the meeting

During the 75-minute meeting, there is talk of a potential deal involving a Russian company that will sell nearly $1.5 billion worth of oil. A discount will be applied to allow the university to collect a portion of the difference. However, Buzzfeed insists that the audio does not provide evidence that the transaction had actually been confirmed at that time.

However, the report insists, “The recording reveals the extent to which the parties were willing to go to conceal the fact that the real beneficiary of the deal would be Salvini’s party – a violation of Italian election law, which prohibits political parties from accepting large sums of foreign donations – despite It is a relief with which he and other leaders of the European far-right have publicly demonstrated their political sympathy with the Kremlin.”

In the conversation, the Russians enthusiastically described Salvini as “European Trump.”

On the day before the meeting, he delivered a speech in which he condemned the sanctions imposed on Russia and described them as “economic, social and cultural madness”, before meeting with Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak and Vladimir. plug in, A strong member of Putin’s party, United Russia.

According to the report, the audio recording “provides the first concrete evidence of Russia’s covert attempts to fund European nationalist movements, and the apparent complicity of some high-ranking figures on the far right in these attempts.”

1 million euros for Marine Le Pen

Who also had to explain his position was the far-right candidate in France, Marine Le Pen. The election ended last weekend with a record vote and 42% support. But the overthrow of Emmanuel Macron was not enough.

Days before the vote, his party admitted that it had paid 12 million euros it received from a Russian-Czech bank. The amount will be the settlement reached on account of the loan he took in the amount of 9.4 million euros, which is still in 2014.

Marine Le Pen came second in the French elections

Photo: Thomas Samson / AFP – March 10, 2022

The first Russian Czech bank was bought by the airline Aviazapchast JSC. At that time, she claimed that she had to look for money in Moscow due to the refusal of French banks to give credit to her movement.

But in 2020, Aviazapchast entered the list of companies under US sanctions for selling weapons to Iran, North Korea and Syria.

Marine Le Pen has never hidden her admiration for Putin, and since 2013, she has made five official visits to the country. One of the most controversial events occurred weeks before the 2017 election, when she also took second place. In photos and statements made to the press, Putin made it clear that he considered French women to be representatives of “a growing movement across Europe.”

The retribution was clear. In the European Parliament, it was Le Pen’s party deputies who defended Moscow in the debates.

In 2014, his father’s party, Jean-Marie Le Pen, took out a €2 million loan from an offshore company based in Cyprus. According to an investigation by the Mediapart website, the company had ties to a former KGB agent linked to Russian oligarchs.

In 2017, Marine Le Pen took advantage of this situation, asking for a loan from her father’s party for the election campaign that year.

Everything changed in 2017, when the laws were revised and it was established that non-European banks could not finance election campaigns. From that moment on, Le Pen began betting on a relationship with Hungary, Putin’s staunch ally in Europe.

“Brother” Urban

Indeed, in the past ten years, Hungary has become one of Putin’s main defense platforms in Europe. The country’s prime minister, Viktor Orbán, has called Bolsonaro his “brother” and both have forged alliances on topics such as defending the family, Christianity and sexuality.

But Orban was also the first European leader to break with the EU’s common position and welcome Putin to Budapest after the 2014 annexation of Crimea.

Bolsonaro and Urban - Marcos Correa / AFP - Marcos Correa / AFP

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban and Bolsonaro

Photo: Marcos Correa/AFP

In the same year, his government selected Russia’s state-owned company Rosatom to renovate Hungary’s only nuclear power plant, worth 12.5 billion euros. For this purpose, the Russians themselves will receive a loan on generous terms in the amount of 10 billion euros, which will have to be repaid in just 21 years, starting in 2026.

For years, the project was blocked by the European Union, which claimed that the Hungarian bid was not carried out according to Brussels standards and that the bank involved in the project, Vnesheconombank, was under sanctions.

But in 2017, the European Union relented and gave the green light to action, causing outrage from the Hungarian opposition. Even Zoltan Ellis, a former deputy for Orban’s party, warned that financing the plant was a “disguise” and that Putin’s goal was to “buy influence”.

Despite a radically different history, Orban and Putin share clear ideas about illiberal democracy, defend supposed Christian values ​​and insist on the need to value sovereignty. Both, however, use the West as an argument that their government is under threat.

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Beatrix von Storch and Bolsonaro

Photo: Playback / Instagram

An alternative to Germany and the granddaughter of Hitler’s minister

Another country that registers special interest for Putin is Germany. Political forces in Berlin accuse the Kremlin of being one of the main supporters of the far-right Alternative for Germany party.

One of the movement’s representatives, Beatrix von Storch, is the granddaughter of one of Adolf Hitler’s most important ministers and was received by President Jair Bolsonaro last year, as well as the main names of Bolsonaro in the country. But in Europe, there are doubts about the party’s relations with the Kremlin.

According to the London File Center, Moscow has identified far-right lawmakers who can help defend the Kremlin’s interests in Europe. One of them was Marcus Fronmayer of the AfD. In the April 2017 document, when Frohnmaier was still a candidate, he was mentioned as a potential ally who would need support in the election.

In the same document, the Russians indicate the result of the assistance they will provide to the politician: “We will have our own deputy who will completely control Parliament.” Fronmayer became one of the lawmakers who criticized the sanctions against Russia and visited Crimea, which Moscow annexed in 2014.

The file center is funded by Mikhail Khodorkovsky, a Putin opponent who spent ten years in prison in Russia.

In the same period, one of the country’s most important newspapers, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, revealed how party members won a special trip to visit Moscow during the election campaign. The beneficiaries were Frauke Petrie, Marcus Pretzel and Julian Flack. Two of them confirmed the correctness of the information.

“Los Nuevos Amigos” by Eduardo Bolsonaro

The far-right movement in Spain is also witnessing a moment of interrogation.

For years, Vox has maintained deep alliances with ultra-Catholic organizations Hazte Oír and CitizenGo. A few months ago, the divorce was confirmed, and the entities accused the party of abandoning the agenda of values.

But while the partnership lasted, one of the issues was its financing. One of the CitizenGO board members is Alexei Komov, an oligarch associated with Konstantin Malofeev, who has been sanctioned for his closeness to the Kremlin.

In an investigation, the OpenDemocracy entity revealed how CitizenGO is being supported by Russian millionaires, hoping to help the Spanish movement gain traction for elections.

In recent years, and especially after the defeat of Donald Trump in the United States, Congressman Eduardo Bolsonaro has promoted rapprochement with Vox. He was one of the signatories of the Madrid Charter, a kind of guide written by members of the Spanish far-right to “defend freedom and democracy” in Latin America and the Iberian Peninsula.

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