Salvini’s out of tune. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is expected to deliver a speech at the upcoming Festival of the Italian Song in Sanremo, set to begin on February 7. And Matteo Salvini – Italy’s Deputy Prime Minister and Infrastructure Minister, known to have had a sweet spot for Vladimir Putin – did not hide his discontent.
- “What I hope is that the war ends as soon as possible,” he said. And besides noting that Italy is aligned with Western positions, he expressed hope that the Festival would “remain reserved for music – something I think everyone expects.”
- “It’s the last week of the [regional] election campaign; if I have time to watch [the Festival], it will be to listen to songs, not to listen to anything else,” he commented.
- Then he distanced himself from the Ukrainian leader with thinly-veiled criticism: “I have my preferences, but in the singing field, not in other fields. I love Italian songs. I don’t know how [Mr Zelensky] sings; I have other preferences.”
Not quite the right time. Deputy PM Salvini’s words come in the wake of a five-way call between Italian PM Giorgia Meloni and other Western leaders – US President Joe Biden, French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak – where they took stock of the situation in Ukraine.
- Rome is fully aligned with the ongoing expansion of Western support to Ukraine, and it’s readying its next weapons and equipment package, slated to include SAMP/T air defence systems as well as civilian aid.
The anti-Zelensky front. Mr Salvini’s not alone. Over the past few days, a group of intellectuals and pundits who oppose supporting the Ukrainian resistance published a document criticising Mr Zelensky’s appearance, calling him a “head of State of one of the two countries currently fighting the bloody war in the Donbas” – and conveniently ignoring the fact that Russia invaded the Ukrainian territory.
- Names include historian Franco Cardini, TV author Carlo Freccero, legal expert Joseph Halevi and artist Moni Ovadia, as well as former Five Star Movement politician Alessandro Di Battista, who have repeatedly amplified some of the Kremlin’s main talking points and conspiracy theories.
A crash course in Kremlinspeak. The war, they wrote, is “fomented by irresponsible arms shipments and unconfessable economic and geostrategic interests […] which have complex reasons, including the fact that NATO has gone to ‘bark at the borders of Russia’ […] as well as the consequences of the brutal repression of [Mr] Zelensky’s nationalist government against the Russian-speaking population, especially in Donbas. A war that, as Italians, we have a constitutional duty to repudiate.”
- The manifesto goes on to call for a protest on February 11 – when Mr Zelensky will make his pre-recorded appearance – in Sanremo. “Italy must get out of the war immediately by stopping all direct or indirect aid to one of the warring parties. Italy cannot resign itself to remaining a storehouse of deadly nuclear weapons under American control, nor a place of war laboratories and research centres. It is necessary to rid our territory of this presence.