Italy | 02/16/2022

Italy 2022 February

“Remembrance Day” and neofascist engagement in the Ukrainian conflict.

Since a controversial law of 2004, each 10th of February in Italy is dedicated to the ‘Remembrance Day’ of “sinkholes” victims and exiles from the Julian-Dalmatian regions after the Second World War. In particular, the episodes concern Yugoslavia’s liberation struggle and the vicissitudes of Italian fascists and occupying population, pushed beyond previous national borders. Moreover is noticeable that right on the 10th of February 1947 the Paris Agreement for peace between Italy and Yugoslavia was signed. Through such a recurrence that fact has turned to be combined with a tragic date instead. Therefore this recurrence has always represented an opportunity for far-right parties to speculate with anti-communist propaganda and rising nationalist feelings. The exploitation of such facts is evident since rarely the narration stems from the previous fascist invasion of the Balkans and exiles are portrayed only as victims of anti-Italian hate. All over Italy, small and big neofascist groups rally in main cities to commemorate Italian (mainly fascist) victims of “Yugoslavian partisans’ fury” and some core places of these demonstrations are always Trieste – which is located on the north-east side straight on the border – and Verona, where far-right organizations are deeply connected with local institutions. Here even the neonazi ‘Veneto skinhead front’ was allowed by local authorities to demonstrate together with Giorgia Meloni’s Brothers of Italy party (FdI), although just a few days before thirteen members of the neonazist group were sentenced by a local court for a squadron blitz at the headquarters of the pro-migrant solidarity association in Como. On the other hand in Verona, an antifascist author, Eric Gobetti, was banned to hold his speech about the complex facts on the eastern border after WWII in a public school. This makes clear how close is the relationship between criminal far-right organizations, so-called right-wing ‘institutional parties’ and unfortunately even authorities of the Republic, always more lured by this nationalist rhetoric.

With Putin’s aggression on Ukraine on the 24th of February and the request of foreign fighters by the government of Kyiv, in order to form “International Brigades”, the attention has turned again to the Italian far-right militants already engaged in the last years in the Donbas conflict. Some prominent figures of the neofascist area, in particular, would be very engaged, curiously on both sides of the war-line also from the 2014 Maidan putsch. A researcher of the Institute of Studies on International Politics (ISPI) states that since the beginning of hostilities in eastern Ukraine, CPI developed sympathies and contacts with the Azov Regiment, for example, while FN has mostly been linked to pro-Russian formations, though several reported exceptions Some Italians, like F.F. called “Stan”, would have ideologically joined the neonazi ‘Azov Battalion, marked by a former SS symbol of the ‘Wolfsangel’ and considered by him a political-military regiment on the Ukraine side, previously an autonomous paramilitary force, then turned to a full-fledged part of the Ukrainian army. Another example on the other side of the barricade is represented by a former Casapound (CPI) leader in Lucca (Tuscany), Andrea Palmieri, officially wanted by the Italian police for previous crimes of aggression. He has been fighting for years with the pro-Russian separatist republic of Lugansk. He has recently sent an interview to a local newspaper, dismissing partly his warrior’s pride and justifying Putin’s aggression because of NATO. The other three Italian citizens, A. Cataldo, V.Verbitchii and O.Krutani, were arrested in 2018 coming back from the Donbas region. All of them with a military background and mostly enrolled as mercenaries or troops trainers. The other two figures, G. Carugati and M. Cavalleri have instead a more political background with assessed connections to local Lega or New Force (FN) parties. In general, the participation in the conflict has involved around sixty neofascist militants so far; but according to the Institute of Studies on International Politics (ISPI) with the new notice of the Ukrainian embassy in Rome for the enrollment in the anti-Putin ‘International Brigades,’ an increase of the phenomenon has to be expected.

This approach is somehow reflected in a repulsive abstention of Italy voting in November 2020 at the UN Assembly for an official statement of the Third Committee in charge of social, humanitarian and cultural issues approved «Combating the glorification of Nazism, neo-Nazism and other practices that contribute to fueling contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance” with 29 NATO countries – 21 also members of EU, among which Rome representatives – abstained because of their support to Ukraine neo-nazi movements for strategic purposes.