Driving the news. On Thursday, Foreign Minister and centrist leader Luigi Di Maio accused Dmitry Medvedev, the former Russian president and current deputy chairman of the National Security Council, of interfering with the Italian election process in the run-up to voting day, on September 25.
Medvedev v Europe. The Russian official, a close ally to President Vladimir Putin and dove-turned-hawk, wrote on Telegram that he “would like to see the citizens of Europe [at the ballot box] not only express their discontent with the actions of their governments… but also punish them for their blatant stupidity.”
- “The voters’ vote is a powerful lever of influence,” he added.
The Kremlin’s Draghi problem. The outgoing Italian government led by Prime Minister Mario Draghi staunchly supported sanctioning Russia along with Western allies and sending arms to Kyiv. All the more reason for Moscow wanting less hostile names in power.
- That’s despite the Russian shadows on the government’s fall and the last Parliamentary elections in 2018, when roughly 50% of MPs campaigned on a Eurosceptic, largely anti-NATO platform.
This wasn’t the first time Mr Medvedev had employed his Telegram channel to lash out at European countries and their officials.
- In July, shortly after PM Draghi’s fall, he posted a picture of Boris Johnson and Mario Draghi on Telegram styled as an epitaph, wondering what Western leader would come down next.
- Back in June, when PM Draghi joined French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz to visit Kyiv, he whirled derogatory insults against the trio, calling them “frog, sausage and pasta eaters.”
The politicians’ response. “The Russian government’s interference in the Italian elections is really worrying,” wrote the Italian FM in response to the Russian official’s post, calling it “a clear indication on how to vote.” He also urged the Italian political forces to “distance themselves sharply, without any shyness, from Russian propaganda.”
- Over on the centre-left, the Democratic Party’s Enrico Borghi – who sits in Parliament’s Intelligence Committee – wrote that “the hawk of the Russian regime, supporter of the massacres in Ukraine, [is entering] the Italian election campaign.” He called it a “serious instance of interference.”
- In the centre-right, senator Adolfo Urso – a member of Brothers of Italy and chairman of the Intelligence Committee – spoke out. “Medvedev’s grotesque statement is just the tip of the iceberg. We need to raise awareness and resilience, as Italy is a key piece of “Western and Atlantic defence and therefore a target country.”
- The Committee has long been warning of the risk of foreign interference in Western democracies, especially in the electoral processes, and urging institutions to set up an appropriate defence mechanism.
Steady on. “We are working to diversify gas supply sources because we cannot depend on those who are financing the bloody war in Ukraine with Italian money,” wrote Mr Di Maio, reiterating the Italy-led request to impose a price cap on gas to diminish Moscow’s leverage over Europe.
- Since Moscow invaded Ukraine, the Italian government has been working hard to diversify away from Russian gas. The percentage of Italian gas supplied by Moscow has nearly halved so far.