An Italian reporter is hospitalised in Kherson. Mattia Sorbi, a freelance journalist who spent the past weeks working near the conflict’s front lines, was seriously injured in Oleksandrivka when the car he was travelling on was allegedly damaged by a landmine, killing the driver.
- He was recently tracked down in Russia-occupied Kherson, which sits in the region subject to the Ukrainian counteroffensive. He is currently stable, having undergone two operations, but is unable to move.
Diplomatic troubles. Mr Sorbi had ceased communications on August 31. The above details emerged in the Italian press on Thursday, clarifying that the Italian diplomacy’s under-the-radar medical exfiltration attempt had failed.
- Since the reporter is not a fighter, he isn’t a prisoner of war. However, chances are that Russian officials now see him as a bargaining chip.
Russian propaganda. This story is developing during the Italian electoral race, where the country’s support for Ukraine and stance against Russia has become a somewhat divisive flashpoint. Meanwhile, Russia is actively working to influence the electoral outcome in its favour. As soon as the news broke, the Kremlin sprung to action.
- The Russian Ministry of Defence published a video on its Telegram channel, extrapolated from a pro-Kremlin TV programme, showing the injured journalist and the testimony of a Russian soldier. The latter accused the Ukrainian forces of staging a murder attempt to carry out a false flag operation, blaming Russia.
- The Twitter profile of the Russian Embassy in Italy posted a picture of Mr Sorbi in his hospital bed, and sought to spin the story to its advantage. The caption read: “What if it turns out that the landmine, on which Italian citizen Mattia #Sorbi was blown up, was of Western origin?”
A delicate issue. Meanwhile, Kremlin spokeswoman Maria Zakharova noted that no one from the Italian government had reached out to them. Which is the key aspect: if Rome had done so, it would have implicitly acknowledged the legitimacy of Moscow’s rule over the occupied Ukrainian territory.
- “We fear that this will become a subject of negotiation in the election campaign,” government sources told Repubblica.
- Now it’s up to the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs to bring Mr Sorbi back home without bending the knee to Vladimir Putin’s blackmail, noted the paper.