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Matteo Cazzulani

Ukraine: Italy’s Political Opposition and the Most Important Media Maintain Pro-Russian Position

A MP of the populist Five Stars Movement accused Ukrainian army of war crimes by using false proves in the Italian Parliament, while several journalists who don’t accept covering Ukraine crisis from a pro-Russian point of view are systematically isolated and even publicly injured. Commercial and energy ties and a historical anti-Americanism are the reasons of Italy’s pro-Russian attitude.

‘Nazi’, ‘fascist’, ‘violent’ and ‘warmongering’ were the most used adjectives toward Ukrainian people by Marta Grande, a Italian MP of populist Five Stars Movement who gave a speech in the Lower House of the Italian Parliament, in order to call the Italian government to verify and denounce ‘war crimes eventually made by Ukrainian army against Russian-speakers in eastern Ukraine’.

In her speech, MP Grande also mentioned the existence of some ‘Ukrainian lagers’ built by Ukrainian Government to detain Russian-speaking population. MP Grande also showed a photo of a Ukrainian soldier eating a harm of a carbonized man, that MP Grande argued he was ‘a Russian victim of Ukrainian aggression’.

Of course, MP Grande’s speech was full of mistakes. ‘Ukrainian lagers’ are simply refugee camps for those Ukrainians who are quitting Ukrainian lands of the east of the country that are occupied by Russian army and pro-Russian Ukrainian mercenaries, who are continuously shooting against civilians despite of the decision of Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko to impose a unilateral cease of fire to the Ukrainian Army.

Moreover, the photo showing the Ukrainian soldier eating a carbonized arm of a Russian man was taken by the Film ‘We are the future’: a production of Russian science fiction from 2008, that MP Grande used as a crucial prove that supports her accusations of Nazism and war crimes to Ukrainians.

“I am sorry for that, but I believe that the photos I showed were original. However, in my speech I wanted to criticize the support the Italian Government gave to Ukraine after Russian annexation of Crimea. Crimean people voted in a referendum for the annexation to Russia. Those who didn’t vote made a mistake”.

This is MP Grande’s explanation in an interview published by Il Fatto Quotidiano: a newspaper traditionally close to Five Stars Movement positions.

Despite of lies and false proofs used by MP Grande, the accusations of Nazism and warmongering shifted to Ukrainians are quite well diffused in the mind of the majority of Italian people. It is not a causality, if the majority of Italian media are presenting Russian military aggression in Ukraine as ‘the military action of rebels who want to separate Eastern Ukraine from Kyiv’s Government and join Russia’.

This is the case not only of Italian national TV and radio broadcaster RAI, but also of Mediaset media channels of Italian tycoon Silvio Berlusconi: former Italian PM who tightened political and energy ties between Italy and Russia while he was the leader of Italian Government, basing on his personal friendship with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The predominance of a pro-Russian point of view in Italian media is also evident in what happened to journalist Roberta Zunini, the author of the interview with MP Grande. Ms. Zunini attended and covered for Il Fatto Quotidiano Maidan’s ‘Revolution of Dignity’, Russian military annexation of Crimea, Ukrainian Presidential Elections and the beginning of Russian warfare in Eastern Ukraine.

Ms. Zunini, who demonstrated to be more open-minded than Five Stars Movement MPs, reported what she really saw in Ukraine and what she really heard by her own ears. In the columns of Il Fatto Quotidiano newspaper, she argued that demonstrators at Maidan were not nazis. She also noticed in a clear way that Ukrainian far-right parties obtained a low score in Presidential Elections, and she invited Italians not to consider Ukrainians as aggressors, but, on the contrary, to understand that the true aggressor in Ukraine is the Russian army.

Ms. Zunini was repeatedly injured and even blackmailed by several readers and even by as famous colleagues as Mr. Giulietto Chiesa: a famous pro-Russian commentator, who openly supports Russia’s foreign policy, and was even a candidate from a Latvian pro-Russian party in 2009 European Election.

Ms. Zunini is not the only one journalist in this situation, which she had the courage to denounce on her personal blog. Several other journalists who refused to describe Ukrainian crisis from a pro-Russian point of view were progressively isolated by the most important Italian media that forbade them the opportunity to give their own version about Russian military aggression in Ukraine.

Italian correspondents of the most important media are quite often  unprepared, without any knowledge of Ukrainian language and culture, while the most important commentators often got information about what was happening in Ukraine just from Russian media and Russian news agency. The speech of MP Grande in the Italian Parliament shows quite well the desperate state of the Italian press, in which Russians are too often justified for their war crimes, while Ukrainians are usually described as ‘aggressors’ and never as ‘victims’ of a military aggression by Russia.

However, it is necessary to notice that Italian politicians are not so negligent about Ukraine as Italian media are. Despite of pro-Russian position of populist Five Stars Movement and right-wing Go Italy Party -the political movement of former PM Berlusconi- the most voted party in last European Elections, the center-left Democratic Party -PD- of Italian PM Matteo Renzi maintained a balanced position toward Ukraine.

On the one hand, Former European Parliament Vice-president Gianni Pittella -a prominent PD member who is going to be the next President of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament- went to Kyiv’s Maidan in order to support Ukrainian demonstrators and to show his deep commitment to Ukraine’s rapprochement to the EU.

On the other hand, Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs Federica Mogherini, who is also a prominent member of PD, showed coldness toward the reasons of Ukrainians and demonstrated to be more attentive towards not damaging commercial, economic and energy ties between Italy and Russia.

The different positions of Italian political forces about Ukrainian crisis are further confirmed by the opinions of Italian political parties about Italian energy policy.

While Five Stars Movement and Berlusconi’s Go Italy support the realization of Southstream -a pipeline planned by Putin to boost EU energy dependence from Russia – PD supports both Southstream and Trans Adriatic Pipeline: a EU-backed project that aims to pump natural gas from Azerbaijan to Italy, in order to diversify EU gas supplies and decrease EU dependence on Russian gas.

The situation of both Italian politics and Italian media shows that Italy is one of the most Russian-tied countries of the EU. Pro-Russian attitude in Italy is favored by the traditional Italian anti-Americanism – quite strong in a country. It was the Communist Party, and not a Socialist or a Social-Democratic Party, that represented the main force of the opposition to a more pro-Atlantic Christian Democracy after World War Two.

As demonstrated above, Italy seems to be a country that prefers to ignore Putin’s war crimes in order to consider Russia a valid alternative to the US.

It’s a pity that those pro-Russian Italians forgot how the US, and not the USSR, recovered democracy and liberty in Italy after World War Two thanks to the sacrifice of thousand of soldiers who died in Italy, in order to free the whole Europe from the nazi occupation.

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Follow the author on Twitter @MatteoCazzulani

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Ideology Left Aside: Russia and the European Far Right

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Free lance journalist, independent energy analyst and HR activist Website: http://matteocazzulaniinternational.wordpress.com

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