24 Feb 2019 18:57

L'Espresso investigation with reference to alleged meetings between Russia's Kozak, Italy's Salvini based on pure guesswork - spokesman for Kozak

MOSCOW. Feb 24 (Interfax) - The investigation of the Italian magazine L'Espresso alleging that Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak and Italian Vice Premier Matteo Salvini held "secret meetings" in Moscow last October has been based on pure guesswork, Kozak's press secretary Ilya Dzhus told Interfax.

"Kozak never personally knew Mr. Salvini. They held neither official nor 'secret' meetings. They never drank espresso together in the offices," Dzhus said.

"Russia and Italy have a large block of bilateral economic cooperation, particularly in sectors such as energy and industry. As a vice premier in charge [of those sectors], Kozak is only focusing on this agenda," he said.

Rosneft earlier issued a statement claiming that all information in the articles published on February 22 in Italy's La Stampa ("Quei 3 milioni russi per Matteo Salvini: ecco l'inchiesta che fa tremare la Lega," or Russia's Three Million for Matteo Salvini: an Investigation that Will Make the League Shake) and L'Espresso ("La trattativa segreta per finanziare con soldi russi la Lega di Matteo Salvini," or Secret Talks for Financing Matteo Salvini's League with Russian Money) is completely untrue. It was alleged in the reports that the Russian oil company might have been involved in financing Salvini's Lega Nord (Northern League) party's campaign in the upcoming European Parliament elections.

Rosneft reached out to the editorial offices of La Stampa and L'Espresso, demanding that they retract false stories contained in the aforesaid articles immediately. In case of refusal, Rosneft is planning to go to court to defend its rights, it said.