Russian pranksters target Italian PM. In mid-September, two well-known Russian comedians, Vovan & Lexus – who are deemed close to the Kremlin’s intelligence services – called Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni. They posed as a high-ranking official from the African Union and engaged her in a conversation about foreign policy. They aimed to lure the Italian PM into a diplomatic trap, forcing her to say uncomfortable things about the war in Ukraine as well as the migration crisis and her relations with French President Emmanuel Macron.
- The duo had already targeted other international leaders, including Spanish PM Pedro Sanchez and former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.
That’s the same script. It’s fair to say their attempt was unsuccessful, as the Italian PM answered the questions by reiterating her government’s official positions. For instance, when confronted on Ukraine – the part of the conversation that is receiving the most attention –, she touched on the issue of war fatigue (as she did on other occasions) and remarked that all those involved are “near the moment” in which “everybody understands that we need a way out,” a position that’s widely shared and publicly debated among analyst.
- The problem remains that of finding one that is “acceptable to both” sides without “destroying international law.” She also acknowledged that Kyiv’s counteroffensive is not being as successful as was expected earlier in the year but also noted it is “progressing” (no news there).
Rome’s reaction. On Wednesday, PM Meloni’s offices at Palazzo Chigi issued a communiqué, stating it regretted “having been deceived by an impostor who pretended to be the President of the African Union Commission” and who managed to reach her at a time when she was “working hard to strengthen relations with African leaders, with whom she had important meetings on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly from 19 to 21 September.”
- Giovanbattista Fazzolari, a close aide to the PM, then remarked that this “trap” was the result of Moscow’s nervousness and “desperation” over the course of the war in Ukraine. “Giorgia Meloni [did] not fall into the trap of Russian propagandists and confirms the Italian line of support for Ukraine and respect for international law,” he noted.