Italian Deputy Premier, Interior Minister and League Party leader Matteo Salvini has indicated that he would prefer to see Moscow join the European community instead of Ankara.
"For decades, we have been spending billions of euros to convince the Turks to enter the EU, even though Turkey has nothing to do with Europe", Salvini said, speaking to Sputnik Italia in eastern Sicily on Friday.
"Instead of supporting the idea of Turkish accession to the EU, to be honest, I would prefer to see Russia's accession into the European community", the deputy prime minister said. "Russia is much closer to us in terms of history, culture, the economy and our traditions than Turkey", Salvini noted.
"My position has always been clear, with some media still looking for 'the roubles that the Russians gave me' to take this position. I adhere to it for free, because sanctions against Russia are useless, if not to say harmful to the Italian economy and to solving the problems which exist on the European continent", Salvini stressed.
Salvini has been a long-time critic of Turkish efforts to join the European Union, saying earlier this month that the accession process "should be canceled" and "definitively stopped". He has also been an outspoken opponent of the sanctions-countersanctions war between Europe and Russia that began in 2014, calling them a form of "madness" which has cost Italian businesses billions of euros in revenue.