Italy raises ‘red alert’ as threat of Putin’s intervention hovering over upcoming elections

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“Putin’s Patriots” was printed on the front page of the Italian newspaper La Stampa on Thursday under a photo of the far-right Liga or League, party leader Matteo Salvini showing thumbs up while smiling in a t-shirt with a picture of the Russian president.

This is an old photo. But this is a story with brand new legs. There are allegations that the Russians have been actively pushing some Italian parties to withdraw their support for outgoing Prime Minister Mario Draghi, one of the European leaders who has been the toughest on Russia since its war with Ukraine.

Salvini insists that Russia was not behind the fall of this government. But he advocates a dialogue with Vladimir Putin. Before the war, he even advertised support for the Russian leader in somewhat better times. All this heightens fears that Russia will somehow emerge victorious in Italy’s elections next month.

Enrico Letta, leader of the centre-left DP, or Democratic Party, raised the alarm earlier this week because he said Russia had interfered in Western elections before in the United States and Britain and the stakes could not be higher this time. . .

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Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi waves to lawmakers at the end of his speech to parliament in Rome on Thursday, July 21, 2022.

Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi waves to lawmakers at the end of his speech to parliament in Rome on Thursday, July 21, 2022.
(AP Photo/Andrew Medikini)

“I am raising the alarm about this. And I would like the Italian government and Italian intelligence (to deal with this matter),” Letta said. “And I would also like to ask the European Union, because there is a unit in the European Union that does this, to help us hold elections without any external Russian influence.”

Mario Draghi resigned earlier this month because some parties in the coalition government he was tasked with leading last year when former prime minister Giuseppe Conte stepped down withdrew their support. They did so in part because of resistance to some of his reforms.

The former central bank president, often referred to as “Super Mario” and credited with bailing out the euro, was seen by many as a safe bet for both Italy and Europe in difficult times. But Draghi was not a member of all the major political parties. Italy’s political landscape does not remain calm for long. The next government will be the 70th after World War II. If polls are to be believed, it is most likely a right-wing coalition.

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Gianluca Paolucci, co-author of The Oligarchs and How Putin’s Friends Are Buying Italy, does not suggest, as some have suggested, that the Kremlin actually bought into the no-confidence vote. But he says those who orchestrated Draghi’s demise are more sympathetic to Putin and may give him a break in the future. It cannot change the trajectory of the war. But it can make a number on European cohesion.

“We are all aware of the relationship between Mr. (Matteo) Salvini and the League party and United Russia, President Putin’s party,” Paolucci told Fox News. “And more about the oligarchs and the extreme right here. And then there’s the Five Star Movement.”

Scheherazade, one of the largest and most expensive yachts in the world associated with Russian billionaires, is docked in the harbor of the small Italian town of Marina di Carrara, Italy, on March 23, 2022.

Scheherazade, one of the largest and most expensive yachts in the world associated with Russian billionaires, is docked in the harbor of the small Italian town of Marina di Carrara, Italy, on March 23, 2022.
(REUTERS/Jennifer Lorenzini)

Paolucci recalled how the leader of this party and then the prime minister called in several Russian emergency teams to help deal with the situation. COVID pandemic in the early days of its existence, when Italy suffered greatly. It turned out that these Russians were not just doctors and plumbers, but military men. And the images on which they fly like a fan through the cities of northern Italy were surprising.

“It was quite shocking to see this long line of Russian military (vehicles) in Italy,” Paolucci said. “I mean, the whole country was locked down at home at the time.”

Experts and polls say the next government will be right-wing, likely coalition. But it seems that the most right-wing party from this group is at the helm.

Georgia Meloni is the leader of the Fratelli d’Italia, or Brothers of Italy. And if that party garners the most votes, as predicted, Meloni is likely to become Italy’s first female prime minister. The party insists that it will not be easy for Russia. Party officials say they will keep up with Europe NATO and USA in opposition to Putin while this war rages on.

Fratelli d'Italia leader Giorgia Meloni at a pro-election rally in Piazzale Roma on May 30, 2022 in Monza, Italy.

Fratelli d’Italia leader Giorgia Meloni at a pro-election rally in Piazzale Roma on May 30, 2022 in Monza, Italy.
(Alessandro Bremek/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

“We have strongly condemned the invasion of Russia and we have a strong sense of belonging and conviction in the Atlantic Alliance,” said Raffaele Fitto of the Brothers of Italy and co-chair of the European Conservatives and Reformists group in the European Parliament.

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The center-left DP, the second strongest individual party, is not convinced that the Brothers of Italy will work well with the country’s European allies in Russia and beyond. The party is accused of anti-European activities. Detractors say the party is born out of the country’s fascist traditions, but Letta suggests that the name may be too simplistic.

Our election campaign can be an election campaign in which the word “fascism” can be repeated many times, Letta said this week. in their interests in terms of the social dimension, in terms of wages, jobs and combating climate change.”

Leaders Brothers of Italy they say that they will effectively defend all these causes, except for fascism, which they call slander.

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“Today, every fourth Italian agrees to this party, and in a month, perhaps even more,” says Fitto. “We are a party deeply rooted in democracy and we urge (Italians) to go and vote for the legitimization of a government of the citizens’ choice.”

It is the citizens, like many around the world, who will end up worrying the most about their fuel bills. jobs and inflation. Russia plays a big role in this equation. But it is clear that this is just one piece of the political puzzle. And surely Russia will be looking forward to the results of the Italian Senate. 25 elections. Maybe almost as eager as the Italians.