Choked by sanctions, Moscow targets Rome. On Tuesday morning, the Kremlin’s spokeswoman Maria Zakharova commented on Telegram Italy’s energy savings plan in a conspiracy-filled post that sought to undermine the Italians’ support for the sanctions imposed on Russia, along with the unity of the Western front.
- “It is clear that this plan is imposed on Rome by Brussels (which, in turn, acts on the orders of Washington), but in the end, it is the Italian people who will have to suffer,” she wrote, noting the negative impact of inflation – without mentioning its root cause: Russia’s economic war on Europe.
Faulting the US. “American businessmen are now paying seven times less for electricity than Italian ones. And this is despite the fact that the initiators of the sanctions are sitting there across the ocean,” wrote Ms Zakharova, proceeding to explain the US’ supposed ominous scheme to undercut its allies.
- “In fact, the sanctions have become a tool of unfair competition for Italian producers. Business in Italy is being destroyed by overseas ‘brothers’ because everyone will have to survive the global crisis on their own,” she claimed.
Conspiracies: Greatest Hits. “The Italian people and the Italian economy are trapped by the senseless political decisions of Washington and Brussels. Rome is being pushed, it seems, not just to senseless actions, but to economic suicide in order to realise the Euro-Atlantic sanctions frenzy. And when the hard-working Italian business collapses, it will be bought up cheaply by the Yanks.”
- The Kremlin spokeswoman conveniently omitted that Italy is among the main drivers behind the EU’s responses to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, including the sanctions packages and measures to diversify away from Moscow’s energy supplies.
- Also, Western countries (including Italy and the US) are far more integrated than Russia and Europe. Therefore, it simply wouldn’t make much sense for the US to tank an allied economy and suffer the political and economic blowback.
Rome’s response. The Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs hit back shortly after. “Clearly, Russia has decided to enter directly into the electoral campaign of a sovereign State,” declared Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio, calling on all parties to “reject this interference.”
- Rather worryingly, the Kremlin’s talking points on sanctions employed by Ms Zakharova were parroted on Sunday by Matteo Salvini, leader of the League and likely a member of the next Italian government.
- “There is but one certainty”, added MFA spokesman Giuseppe Marici. “As of today, Italian families and businesses risk being economically strangled by gas increases,” which “derive from Russian speculation and a war that [Russian President Vladimir] Putin continues to wage, causing the deaths of hundreds of innocent victims”.
A growing trend. While Ms Zakharova had dabbled in insulting Italian politicians (including Mr Di Maio) and even journalists in the past, her latest post comes as part of a widening mediatic operation geared towards the Italian infosphere. Recent highlights include:
- an ominous video published by Gazprom, showing Europe’s prospective cold winter without Russian gas (which the Kremlin reduced in response to sanctions);
- calls by former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to “punish” Italian politicians through the ballot boxes. Kremlin-linked think tanks also threw their hat in the ring as of late.