Hammering on weapons. On Monday, a well-known Telegram channel known for spreading Russian propaganda published photos of ammo sent from Italy to Ukraine. The pictures show US-made M107 artillery shells equipped with 6.5 kilograms of explosives.
- The ammo was donated to Rome by Washington during the Cold War under the “mutual defence” agreements, as the writing explains. Reportedly, Mario Draghi’s government took them out of storage and shipped them to the Ukrainian army.
- Although dated, the ammo has no expiry date and is standard-format for use with NATO equipment. If inserted in the cannon along with new launch charges, it is fully effective – and can hit targets up to 30 kilometres away.
It’s all about hybrid war. Russia’s infowar strategy seems to focus on military aid and energy prices – perhaps the top pressure point in Italy’s infosphere. The Kremlin’s media has been devoting much attention to weapons packages to capitalise on (and reinforce the messaging of) those who campaign against sending more weapons.
- Over the weekend, the Five Star Movement’s Giuseppe Conte laid claim to a “peace” protest, which pushed the idea that arming Ukraine amounted to pursuing the conflict (while failing to condemn Russia’s aggression).
- Also, the governing majority features leaders – like Matteo Salvini and Silvio Berlusconi – who are historically close to the Kremlin. Both have spoken against military aid already.
Watch the timing. Notably, the Telegram post appeared on the same day the US and Italian Defence Ministers, Secretary Lloyd Austin and Minister Guido Crosetto, had their first official phone call. The latter had already confirmed that Giorgia Meloni’s government would continue supporting Kyiv (and criticised the Kremlin-aligned ambiguity of the “pacifist” protestants).
Russia’s most immediate goal is to delay the sixth weapons package, which is expected to contain surface-to-air systems to protect Ukraine’s cities from drone and missile strikes and is yet to be greenlighted by the government. The parallel, longer-term aim is to blow on the embers of discontent and distrust to weaken the Italian institutions – and thus its support to the Ukrainian resistance.