Russia’s European lobby: Italian provocations against Ukraine have been directed from the Kremlin
Article by: Natalia Tolub
Promote Ukraine together with the International Center for Countering Russian Propaganda is finalizing a study on the Kremlin’s “mouthpieces” in Europe. Today we will consider Italy, which is one of the three largest economic partners of Ukraine in the EU and is one of the main trade partners of our country in the world. But we should also not forget that Italy is one of the EU countries where the Kremlin’s messages about Ukraine find fertile ground. Italy is forever inscribed in the history of the Russian-Ukrainian war. There, a Ukrainian was convicted of defending the independence and territorial integrity of his country. Thus, the story of Vitaliy Markiv’s imprisonment is not the only example of such influence.
Unfortunately, provocations by some Italian politicians have been recorded by the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry since the beginning of the Russian armed aggression against Ukraine. “On September 17, 2014, Italian MEP Gianluca Buonanno (of Lega Nord party – Ed.) appeared in a parliamentary hearing on the ratification of the Association Agreement between Ukraine and the EU, appeared in a provocative T-shirt with the words “No to sanctions against Russia”. The protest was initiated by a group of Italian deputies, the Lombardy-Russia Cultural Association,” said Valentyna Bykova, a media expert and analyst at the International Center for Countering Russian Propaganda.
In turn, on May 4, 2015, on the instructions of Dante Cattaneo – the mayor of the Italian town of Ceriana Lagetto – a scandalous monument to the “Martyrs of Odessa” was erected. Cattaneo is a member of the League of the North party.
This continues to this day. The most recent example is that on January 26, 2020, L’Eredità narrator Flavio Insinna quoted one of the Kremlin propaganda messages live on RAI-1: “Little Russia is the second name of Ukraine“.
It is worth noting that the Embassy of Ukraine in Italy promptly responded to the situation and addressed an official letter to the channel’s management regarding the incorrect and even insulting statement of the narrator. However, she did not receive any response, after which she decided to publish the letter on the official website of the Embassy. For three days, Flavio Insinna publicly acknowledged the incorrectness of his statement and remarked that it was an unintentional mistake. However, such “erroneous” quotes from Kremlin messages do not end there. In Italy, three “representative centers” of self-proclaimed “republics” are open and free. The first “DNR” representative center started in Turin in December 2016, the second – in Verona in February 2019. The self-proclaimed “LNR” also has its “representative center” from June 29, 2019.
Italians who want their “LNR”
Today, together with Valentyna Bykova, we will continue the story of formal and informal leaders of the Italian Republic. Those who, through so-called “people’s diplomacy”, are trying to demonstrate that the self-proclaimed republics and Crimea within Russia are allegedly recognized by the international community and are not isolated.
For example, Eliseo Bertolazi is a candidate of anthropological sciences, a geopolitics analyst at the Institute of Higher Geopolitical Studies and Related Sciences, a member of the Italy-Russia Association (Bergamo section), a member of the Lombardy-Russia Association, and a Russian media reporter for Sputnik news in Italy. He visited ORDLO (the Ukrainian official name for occupied areas of Luhansk and Donetsk provinces, – Ed.), participated as an “international observer” in the illegal elections in the “DPR” in November 2018.
And during his visits to the temporarily occupied territories of Donbas, he actively gave interviews to the ORDLO media, broadcasting Kremlin propaganda messages. In February 2018, he visited the annexed Crimea, where he participated in the Yalta Agrarian Forum as the founder of Agroconvention LLC. Eliseo insists that Italy suffers from sanctions imposed on Russia, and therefore must resume trade cooperation with Russia in full.
The next Gualtiero Mazzi is a lawyer, vice president of the Province of Verona, leader of the League of the North. In November 2015, he came to ORDLO to “help rebuild the infrastructure and buildings destroyed during the war, as well as to study how the independence vote was conducted”.
Another supporter of the Russian Federation, Vito Comencini, is an adviser to the Verona City Hall and a member of the board of the Veneto Regional Committee for Independence.
He was also in ORDLO and twice in the occupied Crimea. In addition, he spoke positively about the construction of the “Crimean Bridge” and the federal highway “Tavryda.”
Here are the following: Palmarino Dzocatelli – President of the “Veneto Regional Committee for Independence”, National Secretary of the “Free Trade Union”. He illegally visited the occupied territories of ORDLO and the annexed Crimea three times. By the way, Dzocatelli in 2013 was an active participant in the preparation of a referendum on the independence of the Veneto region.
Edoardo Rubini is the deputy president of the Veneto Regional Committee for Independence. In November 2015, he was in the temporarily occupied territories of the Donetsk region to “assess the circumstances in the region”.
Gianmatteo Ferrari is a member of the League of the North party and vice-president of the Lombardy-Russia Association. He came to ORDLO for the purpose of “mutually beneficial partnership between the citizens of the DPR and the Italian business community”.
In an interview with Russia’s RT, he said that “everyone who wants to help the people of Donbas who suffered as a result of the fratricidal war” had the opportunity to join the delegation. He also added: “We hope to establish a dialogue between Europe and the DPR. This is possible if Italians and Europeans, in general, find out what is happening in Donbas”.
Luca Bertoni – Secretary of the Association “Lombardy-Russia”, one of the leaders of the party “League of Lombardy” (part of the party “League of the North”). In 2016 and 2017 he visited ORDLO. He was an honorary guest of the photo exhibition “101 life” dedicated to the “DPR”, which took place in February 2017 in Verona.
The purpose of the exhibition: to stop the civil war in Donbas, to tell the world the truth and to collect signatures for a petition to the UN Human Rights Council. The description of this exhibition was broadcast by Kremlin messages, in particular, about “the attack of armed nationalists on Kyiv-Crimea buses in February 2014.” It is as if the evil Banderites burned vehicles along with things and documents, and beat and tortured people for refusing stand to kneels and sing the Ukrainian national anthem and shout “Glory to the Heroes”.
The organizer of this exhibition was Eliseo Bertolazi, already familiar to us from his visits to the temporarily occupied territories.
Lucio Chiavegato is the founder and leader of the radical separatist Veneto Independence Movement and president of the “Liberi imprenditori federalisti europei” small business union. He actively cooperates with the League of the North and also visited ORDLO.
Paola Pasetto is a member of the radical separatist Veneto Independence Movement and director of a furniture firm. She repeatedly ran in the local elections in the province of Veneto from the League of the North-League of Veneto. In November 2016, she visited the temporarily occupied territories of the Donetsk region.
Loris Ferro is a member of the radical separatist Veneto Independence Movement, director of several companies (consulting, electronics, alarm systems). In November 2016, he was in ORDLO.
All of the above are supporters of the eurosceptic League of the North, which advocates the lifting of sanctions against Russia. As a result, businesses in Italy were deprived of access to the Russian market and lost profits. An agreement was signed in Moscow between the Italian League of the North and the Russian United Russia party, which provides for cooperation in several areas, primarily the lifting of Western sanctions against Russia.
In addition, the League of the North is in favor of granting independence to the northern provinces of Italy (Piedmont, Veneto, and Lombardy) with the formation of a separate state with its capital in Milan. Like, “hard-working inhabitants of the North do not want to keep the lazy inhabitants of the South”. We in Ukraine have heard the same slogans about “Donbas, which feeds all of Ukraine”.
Therefore, visitors from the Italian Republic visited the temporarily occupied territories of ORDLO and the Autonomous Republic of Crimea in order to demonstrate support for the self-proclaimed “republics”, as they themselves are supporters of the formation of a similar republic “LPR / DPR” in Italy. It is also possible that in this way there is an exchange of experience.
As a result, these visits are regularly used by the Russian secret services as an information pretext to create a negative image of Ukraine not only within Russia, Italy, Crimea, and the self-proclaimed “LDPR” but also in the international arena.