Italy put itself on a collision course with Britain and much of the EU on Wednesday after threatening to veto the renewal of sanctions against Vladimir Putin’s Russia.
During a visit to Moscow, Matteo Salvini, Italy’s staunchly pro-Moscow deputy prime minister, said that Rome might block the renewal of sanctions that have been in place since 2014 when Russia annexed Crimea.
The sanctions, which include the freezing of assets of individuals, an embargo on the export of weapons and financial restrictions, are due to expire in January.
Mr Salvini described sanctions against Russia “economic, social and cultural madness” and “an absurdity” that had cost Italian businesses “billions of euros”.
“If we are asked to confirm (the sanctions), we will say no,” Mr Salvini told a conference of business leaders in Moscow.
Asked if the coalition government, which came to power in June, might veto the renewal of EU sanctions, Mr Salvini said: “We can only use the trump card of the veto once in Europe.”
That was a reference to the Italian government’s numerous battles with Brussels, from demanding more help with migrants and refugees, to pushing through a controversial budget that revolves around lavish spending on social welfare and generous tax breaks which will cost debt-laden Italy billions of euros.
‘There is the question of the budget, the question of migration,” Mr Salvini said.