The Kremlin envoy jumps on energy prices. On Thursday, the Italian energy price authority announced an 18.6% increase in energy bills in the last quarter of 2023. The following day, Russia’s Ambassador to Italy, Alexei Paramonov, attempted to weaponise the issue – which is closely linked to Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine – by reverting to the usual propaganda narratives on energy and sanctions.
- That’s the usual Moscow playbook, which became especially evident during last year’s elections. The goal is always the same: fuelling divisions in society, and therefore in politics, in the target country.
What he said. “Italy, on its own initiative, has already reduced the supplies of cheap Russian natural gas from 30 billion to 8 billion cubic meters and intends to abandon them altogether,” said Ambassador Paramonov, adding that the decision also came with the increased costs of finding new suppliers and logistics. “At the same time, bills and prices of basic necessities have skyrocketed. We also feel it ourselves by paying the embassy’s energy bills, which have almost doubled since the beginning of this year,” said the diplomat.
What he didn’t say. According to the tariff update, energy prices are still 57% cheaper compared to the same period in 2022, when the Kremlin was actively manipulating gas shipments to increase tension in Europe and jack up the prices. Additionally, the Italian government announced on Monday that it would automatically roll out a bonus, calculated on the number of family members, to qualifying Italians with lower salaries.
The Kremlin’s Greatest Hits. In the interview, Ambassador Paramonov circled back to some of Moscow’s usual narratives. Italy “indirectly took part in the Ukrainian conflict”, he said, adding that Italians are concerned about the worsening socio-economic situation, high prices, rising public debt and national budget deficit and lack a “clear explanation of the causes of this crisis”. He’s got one: “Western sanctions have played a significant role, undermining a stable model of economic interaction between the Russian Federation and the European Union.”
- He also lambasted Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s “regime” for “professing the ideology of Hitler’s criminals and their collaborators” and expressed his shock about Italian politicians claiming that Kyiv is defending the cardinal principles of European civilisation, accusing the Italian government of not showing “diplomatic inclinations” in its approach to resolving the Ukrainian crisis.
- The Russian ambassador then attacked the “mainstream Italian news media,” which, being “part of the general Western media space,” does not “broadcast truthful information about Russia”; propaganda has succeeded in creating “an aura of toxicity” around anyone who views Moscow positively, he said.
We’re the good guys – ask the Pope. Bilateral relations are going through a “dramatic moment,” he lamented, but Russia’s “communication with Italian civil society [and] ordinary citizens who do not hold administrative positions convince us of the wisdom, common sense and openness of the Italian people” because “the majority of Italians are clearly in favour of maintaining friendly relations with Russia,” they want nothing more than “a quick end to the Ukrainian conflict, the lifting of sanctions and a return to the previous constructive and mutually beneficial dialogue.”
- According to Ambassador Paramonov, since many Italians are Catholic and anti-militarist, they should listen to Pope Francis. “They support his diplomatic efforts and fully understand that the conflict in Ukraine does not end just because Italy and other Western countries send a large amount of weapons and other military aid to Kyiv,” he said.