ROME (Reuters) – No Italian political parties were named in a report drawn up by U.S. intelligence that highlighted Russian efforts to influence politics in more than two dozen countries, Prime Minister Mario Draghi said on Friday.
The U.S. State Department on Tuesday released a summary of the alleged Russian efforts to influence foreign politics, including support for unnamed far-right nationalist parties.
Draghi said he spoke to U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken about the report, which sent a jolt through Italy ahead of national elections on Sept. 25, reviving long-standing suspicions that some parties have received funding from Moscow.
“The U.S. secretary of state confirmed that Italian political forces were not on the list of recipients of Russian financing,” Draghi told a news conference.
“U.S. intelligence confirmed that it has no evidence of covert Russian funding to candidates and political parties competing in the current election,” he added.
Russian influence has been a pivotal issue in the Italian electoral campaign.
A trio of parties, including the rightist League and Forza Italia, all with historically friendly ties to Moscow, brought down Draghi’s government in July, triggering the snap election.
League leader Matteo Salvini, who once praised Putin as “the best statesmen currently on earth”, has repeatedly denied receiving support from Moscow.
Draghi said Italian democracy was “strong” and not vulnerable to foreign powers and “their mercenary puppets”, saying Russia had carried out systematic corruption attempts in the United States and in many European countries in the past 20 years.
The former European Central Bank Chief, who is still in power in a caretaker position, is a staunch supporter of sanctions against Moscow and said they are proving effective.
“We must continue supporting Ukraine until the liberation war is won,” he said.
(Reporting by Angelo Amante and Crispian Balmer; Editing by Gavin Jones and William Maclean)