Russian President Vladimir Putin’s political party has signed a cooperation agreement with Italy’s far-right Lega Nord (Northern League), in a move that signals a continuation of Russian efforts to expand ties with Europe’s populists. Putin’s party, United Russia, has already signed a similar agreement with a far-right party in Austria, and has actively sought to work closely with like-minded populists in France and Austria. Putin’s increased coziness with Europe’s far-right has already triggered fears that Russia is readying cyberattacks targeting French and German elections, similar to Russia’s meddling in the U.S. election to allegedly help Donald Trump win the presidency.
Lega Nord’s leader Matteo Salvini—who, in an interview last month with The Daily Beast, praised Putin as a model leader—traveled to Moscow on Monday to ink the agreement. In a Facebook post complete with pictures from the signing ceremony alongside Russian lawmaker Sergei Zheleznyak, Salvini said the two parties have vowed to fight illegal immigration and Islamic terrorism, and to end sanctions against Russia.