Francesco Talo, the chief diplomatic adviser to Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, has resigned after a phone conversation between Meloni and a Russian prankster posing as an African Union official was leaked online, revealing Meloni’s candid views on Ukraine and migration.
The prank call, which took place in September but was made public this week, was orchestrated by a duo known as Vovan and Lexus, who have previously fooled other world leaders and celebrities, such as Angela Merkel, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and Prince Harry.
During the 10-minute call, Meloni expressed her frustration with the lack of European solidarity on migration issues, saying that Italy was “left alone” to deal with the influx of migrants from Africa and the Middle East. She also said that there was “fatigue” in the international community regarding the conflict in Ukraine and that she hoped for a peaceful resolution that would respect the territorial integrity of the country.
Meloni said on Friday that she had “a doubt” about the caller’s identity, but not enough to end the conversation. She blamed her diplomatic staff for not verifying the caller’s credentials and said that Talo, a 65-year-old career diplomat who had served as ambassador to NATO, Israel, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, had taken responsibility for the mistake and resigned.
She also defended her remarks on Ukraine, saying that they did not contradict her government’s firm support for Kyiv and its opposition to Russian aggression. She added that she had “no evidence” that the prank was part of a Kremlin-sponsored propaganda campaign, but suggested that it might be related to Italy’s pro-Ukraine stance.
The opposition Democratic Party had demanded that the government explain the incident to parliament, saying that it raised serious national security concerns. Meloni said that she was ready to answer any questions from lawmakers, and that she had nothing to hide.