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'See what your friend Putin has done': Salvini mocked in Poland

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By AP, AFP
Przemysl's mayor Wojciech Bakun holds up a t-shirt with the likeness of Russian President Vladimir Putin and the words "The Russian Army" as he stands alongside Matteo Salvini
Przemysl's mayor Wojciech Bakun holds up a t-shirt with the likeness of Russian President Vladimir Putin and the words "The Russian Army" as he stands alongside Matteo Salvini   -   Copyright  Credit: AP Photo

Italy's former hardline interior minister Matteo Salvini has been called out for his previous support of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

It happened during a visit to Przemysl, the Polish city on the frontline of the Ukrainian refugee crisis.

Wojciech Bakun, mayor of Przemysl, with Salvini standing beside him, praised Italian organisations that helped the city in light of the refugee surge.

"At the same time, I have a personal comment for Senator Salvini, with whom I would like us to go together, Senator, to the border and to the refugee centre to see what your friend Putin has done.

"What the person you describe as your 'friend' has done and what has he actually done to those people who, in the number of 50,000, cross the border."

He then unfurled a t-shirt showing Putin's face and the words "Army of Russia" in Russian. It was a reference to a picture of Salvini in Moscow wearing a similar t-shirt several years ago.

In a 2017 tweet, Salvini wrote: "For the PD (Italy's Democratic Party) Putin is a bloody dictator [...] in my opinion Renzi is not even worth a little finger of the Russian president. You think?"

Salvini interrupted Bakun as he spoke, saying: "We are helping refugees, children, mums, dads, from Ukraine."

He then walked away.

Salvini has praised Putin in the past as "one of the best statesmen." He has denied taking money from the Kremlin.

He later condemned Putin's actions.

"Yes, of course, let's condemn Putin, let's condemn the Russian aggression," he said.

The number of refugees fleeing Ukraine amid Russia's invasion reached two million people on Tuesday, with more than half arriving in Poland.