Russian disinformation has been active for years, if not decades, in European societies, aiming to promote Euroscepticism and anti-Western narratives as well as to divide and polarize target societies from within. After the start of the large-scale invasion of Ukraine, whitewashing the Russian Federation and trying to ease the pressure of sanctions have become the number one goal of such disinformation.
Its promotion relies on the already established networks and channels of communication that have readily picked up and spread disinformation messages below. Italy has a number of such actors, and their influence is strengthened by several major challenges national media face. The impact is direct, and 2022 is far from being the first occasion on which it manifested. The notorious case of Ukrainian National Guard member Vitalii Markiv, who was prosecuted based on the Russian fakes and manipulations about his persona and Ukraine in general, is a vivid example.
Italian media tend to invite Russian propagandists as commentators, looking for “balanced reporting” and “alternative point of view” – in turn, however, they help normalizing and legitimizing disinformation. One of the most vivid cases is the presence of Vladimir Solovyov, one of the leading Russian propagandists frequently using hate speech, on air of Italian channel Rete 4. Solovyov possesses two villas in Italy in the area of Lake Como – two which he has no access now due to the personal sanctions against him for inciting violence.
In addition to problematic guests, many experts and journalists who have actual experience in Ukraine and understanding of the local context are being silenced or subject themselves to self-censorship. As a result, opinion-making programs often have Russian bias. Moreover, Russian propaganda and disinformation are rampant on the social media.
Ukraine In Flames #141 explores the key factors that empower Russian propaganda in Italy and looks for solutions.
- Olga Tokariuk, independent journalist
- Vladyslav Maistruk, Ukrainian journalist and producer
- Eleonora Mongelli, the Vice President of the Italian Federation for Human Rights.
UKRAINE IN FLAMES project is created by Ukraine Crisis Media Center and NGO “Euroatlantic Course”. We are aiming at searching a loud support for Ukraine in the war started by Russia on the 24th of February 2022.
If you want to support Ukraine against Russian aggression, check the link with recommendations by Ukraine Crisis Media Center – https://uacrisis.org/en/help-ukraine.
NGO Euroatlantic Course collects donations to support Ukrainian Army and civilians – https://eac.org.ua/en/main-page/.