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#Dugina trending in Italy reveals weakness to Russian propaganda

Kremlin Twitter
The country became the top location on Twitter to discuss the death of Darya Dugina, daughter of the Russian nationalist Alexander Dugin, according to a DFRLab analysis. That’s evidence of the country’s “substantial weakness to Russian disinformation and other forms of interference,” experts argue

Italy tweeted Dugina. Far-right and far-left populist Twitter accounts in Italy gained traction by posting pro-Russian and anti-Ukraine content on the death of Darya Dugina, according to a DFRLab analysis.

  • Ms Dugina was the daughter of Aleksandr Dugin, a Russian nationalist philosopher who developed the so-called “Russian World” ideology used by the Kremlin as an excuse to wage war against Ukraine.
    • A propagandist herself, she was assassinated with a car bomb on the night of Saturday, August 20, on the outskirts of Moscow.

An Italian social-media buzz. Subsequently, Italy became the top location on Twitter for accounts discussing the event, using the hashtag #Dugina.

  • This all happened at a rather delicate time, argued experts Nika Aleksejeva and Mattia Caniglia, as Italians are slated to elect their next parliament on September 25. And it’s “the latest evidence that the country shows a substantial weakness to Russian disinformation and other forms of interference.”

Digging deeper. “The top Italian-language retweeted tweets containing pro-Russian and anti-Ukrainian or anti-Western sentiment were posted by accounts representing Italian far-right and far-left populists,” reads the DFRLab report.

  • One account, @AsaDragan, used the popular fascist slogan “Dio, Patria, Famiglia” in his bio, while @Qua_Agatha expressed anti-migrant and anti-vax sentiments.
  • The account @antonio_bordin often shared anti-Western sentiments and populist criticisms of Italian PM Mario Draghi, as did the account @tutinodavide. AntiUkrainian sentiment was expressed by the account @francescocantin.

It’s an ongoing trend. Former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev recently urged Italian voters to “punish” their pro-Ukraine governments through the ballots. That was perhaps the most notable instance of Moscow’s attempts to influence the elections’ outcome.

  • The Italian Parliament’s Intelligence Committee recently issued a report noting how Italy could be used as a “picklock” to break the Euro-Atlantic front. Damaging the country “can also weaken its projection in the wider Mediterranean, so as to favour the growing Russian strategic presence in Northern Africa, the Sahel and the Balkans.”

Reality check. According to the Kennan Institute and the Rand Corporation, two think tanks, Alexander Dugin’s influence in Russia is rather limited. Abroad, however, things are quite different.

  • The ultranationalist ideologue exploited the spotlight that some media outlets granted him. These include Breitbart News, co-founded by Steve Bannon, once strategist of former US President Donald Trump.
    • A 2014 Breitbart article called Mr Dugin “Putin’s Rasputin.”
  • In Europe, Mr Dugin built relationships with Marine Le Pen, former leader of the National Front in France, as well as Matteo Salvini’s League – plus the neo-fascist movements Forza Nuova and CasaPound – in Italy.

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