Russian opposition political activist Alexei Navalny denied allegations of “links” between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Italy’s North League and 5-Star Movement political parties. In an exclusive interview with the ANSA Italian news agency, published on January 18, he said relations between the two sides are heavier.

“The links between the Putin regime and the Italian establishment are irrational and quite irritating,” Navalny said. “Those with the extreme right parties are incomprehensible, as in the case of the Northern League, which loves Putin and Putin loves them a lot. But their ideologies are opposite.”

As reported by ANSA, Navalny also said he was “very sorry” that the 5-Star Movement has a position favourable to Putin because, on the basis of everything they say, they should hate him”. Navalny told ANSA that Italy should be a friend of the Russian people, not its oligarchs.

“There is a solid relationship between Italy and Russia and the Russians consider the Italians a special people,” Navalny said in the interview, the first given to the Italian media after his election exclusion. “I’d like to see a more active position by Italy on individual sanctions because your country is a major destination for the dirty money of the oligarchs, who steal here and then go and have fun in your resorts.”

“I’d like it to be more a friend of the Russian people and less of Putin’s oligarchs,” added Navalny, explaining that he is not giving up his political battle in Russia and blasted Putin’s administration as “feudal”.

“Today independent political activity in Russia entails risks, but I’ll keep going, there’s no alternative,” he said. “We are fighting for our right to participate in the construction of Russia’s future.”