Kyiv names and shames Modena. On Thursday, the Ukrainian Embassy in Italy asked the Municipality of the Northern Italian city to withdraw its authorisation for the use of a civic hall. The object of their protest is the event that’s scheduled to take place there on January 20: “Mariupol. Rebirth after the war,” a conference-exhibition dedicated to Russia’s reconstruction of the occupied Ukrainian city on the Azov Sea, which was levelled during Moscow’s bombing raids in the first phase of the full-scale invasion and has been occupied since May 2022, after a long siege.
Pure Kremlin-speak. In the literature describing the event, Mariupol is defined as “a city-symbol of the popular uprising of the Donbass against the Kyiv junta, a martyr city of the eight-year bandit occupation” that “now faces a fast process of reconstruction under the aegis of the institutions of the Russian Federation, of which it has become an integral part.”
- The exhibition-conference is thus designed to present the Modenese public with “the results of the new city administration after the final liberation in the spring of 2022, with the surrender of the Azov battalion barricaded in the Azovstal steelworks.”
- Speakers include Luca Rossi, President of the Russia Emilia-Romagna Cultural Association, which organised the event; Dmitry Shtodin, Russian Consul-General; Eliseo Bertolasi, Italian representative of the International Russophile Movement; and Andrea Lucidi, a freelance, Russia-aligned “journalist” active in the Donbas.
- Mr Lucidi was recently the subject of a parliamentary interrogation for having attended an event hosted by the Italian Embassy in Moscow – a “paradoxical” instance, as the government noted.
Backlash ensues. Over the past hours, several Italian politicians have asked Mayor Gian Carlo Muzzarelli to intervene – including some of his colleagues in the Democratic Party. “I am deeply offended that a pro-Russian association can make its propaganda about Mariupol, a martyr city of Ukraine fighting, in a civic hall in Modena,” wrote Senator Filippo Sensi on X.
- “The Constitution provides that ‘Italy repudiates war as an instrument of offence against the freedom of other peoples.’ Whoever organises a conference to glorify an invasion and the destruction of Mariupol – what are they doing, if not disrespecting the Constitution,” added MP Lia Quartapelle.
The mayor’s response. Mr Muzzarelli said in a statement that Modena did not endorse or support the event. Still, he added that the civic hall’s reservation respected local regulations and that the association had pledged to respect constitutional values when reserving the space. Then the organisers announced that the exhibition-conference would only be accessible by emailing the Cultural Association Russia Emilia-Romagna and after confirmation – due to “numerous adhesions,” they say.
It’s not just Modena. The Mariupol conference is not the only pro-Russian event scheduled to take place in Italy in the coming weeks – just a few months away from the European elections, which will also affect Western support for Ukraine. Here are three more – with one even featuring a Kremlin heavyweight.
- January 14, Spazio Ritter, Milan, “Darya Dugina and the Donbas”. Guests include the aforementioned Mr Bertolasi, former far-right terrorist Maurizio Murelli and Rainaldo Graziani, son of the founder of Ordine Nuovo (a famed terrorist organisation born of the extreme right-wing in the late 60s and linked with the Piazza Fontana bombing, one of the most devastating in Italian Republican history, which Mr Graziani himself fondly recalled at the fifty-years commemoration for the “diamond-pure ideas [it] left behind.”
- January 27, Centro sociale culturale Villa Paradiso, Bologna, a screening of the Russian film “The Witness” on the conflict in Ukraine (coinciding with Holocaust Remembrance Day). Mr Lucidi and Vincenzo Lorusso of the Donbass Italia Association are slated to attend.
- Also January 27, Grand Hotel Guinigi, Lucca, “Towards a New Multipolar World,” a conference which will star Russian neo-nazi philosopher Aleksandr Dugin – one of Vladimir Putin’s closest ideologues, a supporter of the war against Ukraine and the supremacy of a Eurasian Russia over the West – via video link. It has been organised by the Vento dell’Est (“Easterly Wind”) Association; its president, Lorenzo Berti, is a former mayoral candidate of the neo-fascist party CasaPound. He will attend too, along with photojournalist Giorgio Bianchi (who supports Russia and the aggression against Ukraine) and Alberto Bradanini (former ambassador to China and Iran, now on Pirelli’s board of directors, known for his positions against the West and in favour of a new global order as supported by Russia and China).
Watch out for democracy. “We need to increase our attention regarding these phenomena and dynamics, all the more so as we approach the European elections, which represent for [Vladimir] Putin a functional junction for the destabilisation of our democracies,” wrote Pina Picierno, vice-president of the European Parliament and member of the Democratic Party, on X, urging “everyone […] from local administrators to the country’s institutional leadership” to “raise the alert level.”