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Mapping the Kremlin’s propagandists on Italian TV

MAria Zakharova
Italian TV networks are a platform for the talking points of Russian government officials, ideologues and media personalities. An analysis by ISPI’s Matteo Pugliese charts who they are and on what networks they appear

That’s still going on. Even as the Russian war in Ukraine continues, Italian TV networks keep hosting Russian propagandists (as they’ve been doing for a while now) to such an extent that the country’s mediatic landscape has become a notable exception in the Western infosphere.

  • Previous instances include a 40-minute interview with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, and an entire talk show episode broadcasted live from the Red Square in Moscow, featuring prominent propagandists Maria Zakharova and Vladimir Solovyev (more on them below).

Rife with Kremlin propagandists. Matteo Pugliese, an associate fellow at ISPI and PhD candidate at the University of Barcelona, published research on their presence on Italian TV channels. First, a quick network ranking:

  • Rete 4, part of Mediaset, a private media company owned by Silvio Berlusconi and his family, hosted 12;
  • La 7, another private national TV channel owned by Urbano Cairo, stands at 8;
  • Rai 3, a public channel operated by State broadcaster Rai, hosted one.

Mr Pugliese also produced a snapshot of the most important Russian personalities that found themselves under the Italian spotlights since the Russian invasion began. Here’s a rundown.

Government figures include senior officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, such as FM Lavrov himself, Spokeswoman Zakharova and Sergey Razov, the Russian Ambassador to Italy. All had previously attacked the Italian government and its officials and pushed the Kremlin’s foreign projection and talking points, regardless of facts. Of course, they have doubled down since the invasion.

Ideologues, who push the Kremlin’s talking points in live “debates”, include the following.

  • Dmitry Suslov, Deputy Director of the Center for Comprehensive European and International Studies at the National Research University (Higher School of Economics). He denied Russia bombed civilian targets and justified the invasion.
  • Sergej Markov, professor at the Faculty of Political Science at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MIGMO), which is controlled by the MFA. He’s also a member of the “Presidential Commission to Counter Attempts to Falsify History to the Detriment of Russia’s Interest” – which engages in historical revisionism.
  • Daria Pushkova, director of the Science and Culture Center of the Russian Embassy in Rome (and daughter of former United Russia MP Aleksey Pushkov, who chaired the Duma’s foreign committee). She also worked as a journalist at Russia Today (RT).
  • Maria Dubovikova, a journalist. The Italian Parliament’s intelligence committee is allegedly investigating her role in coordinating Twitter campaigns against Italian politicians who supported sending weapons to Ukraine.
  • The all too well-known Aleksandr Dugin, who has long tread the Italian media scene and has known links and collaborations with Italian pundits who deal in disinformation, pro-Russian propaganda and far-right conspiracy theories.

Media personalities deserve another bullet list of their own. Editor’s note: all Russian channels mentioned below are owned and operated by the State.

  • Dmitry Kulikov, host of the Russian talk show “Who’s Against?” on Russia-1 and Member of the Ministry of Defence’s Public Council.
  • Yevgeny Popov, United Russia MP and deputy chair of the Duma’s information committee, as well as co-host of “60 Minut” on Russia-1.
  • Nadana Fridriksson, journalist at Zvezda, which is run by the MoD and deals in military propaganda, disinformation and historical revisionism. She denied Russian war crimes and spread disinformation on Rai 3.
  • Olga Belova, also at Zvezda and host of the “Glavnoe” TV show. Free Russia Forum, an NGO, included her among the most prominent 1500 warmongers who supported the invasion.
  • Olga Kurlaeva, a journalist at Russia 24, an outlet that denied the Bucha massacre and engaged in other sorts of visual disinformation.
  • Ruslan Ostashko, who graduated from the FSB’s Moscow Border Institute and ended up working as a journalist at Pervyi Kanal and at the Internet Development Institute.
  • Tatiana Kukhareva, former deputy editor at RT France and at Sputnik News. She stated that Russia has remained within its borders, which amounts to historical revisionism.
  • Yulia Vitazyeva, a journalist at NewsFront (based in Russia-occupied Crimea and operated by the FSB). In a Telegram post, she wished a missile would hit the Eurovision song contest in Turin after Ukraine’s victory.
  • And finally, the aforementioned Vladimir Solovyev, another member of the MoD’s Public Council who hosts the Sunday Evening talk show on Russia-1. He discussed invading Poland and Baltic countries on the Italian airwaves.

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