Italy PM Meloni talks of Ukraine fatigue, migration in prank call

ROME (Reuters) – Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni spoke of international fatigue with the conflict in Ukraine and a lack of support for Italy in dealing with migration in a phone call with Russian pranksters.

A 13-minute audio of the call, which dates back to September, was released online on Wednesday by Russians Vovan and Lexus, who have duped other Western politicians and celebrities in an effort to elicit frank, unguarded remarks.

Meloni’s office said in a statement it regretted that she had been deceived by an impostor posing as the head of the African Union Commission. It said the call took place on Sept. 18 in the run-up to meetings with African leaders at the United Nations General Assembly.

Asked about Russia’s war in Ukraine, Meloni, speaking in English, said: “I see that there is a lot of fatigue, I have to say the truth, from all the sides. We (are) near the moment in which everybody understands that we need a way out.”

“The problem is to find a way out which can be acceptable for both without destroying the international law,” she added.

Addressing Italy’s position as a first port of call for many migrants crossing the Mediterranean, Meloni lamented that international partners were not doing enough to help.

“They do all agree that only Italy has to solve this problem alone. It’s a very stupid way of thinking.”

Prankster Lexus, or Alexei Stolyarov, said Meloni was at least someone who was willing to share her real opinions.

“Unfortunately, unlike her, many European politicians behave like some kind of programmed robot and express points of view that are only voiced in their own circles,” he told Reuters by telephone. He did the talking while Vovan also listened in on the call with Meloni, he explained.

Meloni, Italian prime minister for a year, split with her TV presenter partner last month after off-air video excerpts from his programme showed him using foul language and appearing to make advances to a female colleague.

(Additional reporting by Alex Marrow and Federico Maccioni; writing by Keith Weir; editing by Mark Heinrich)