Italy | 03/16/2022

Italy 2022 March

With the start of the trial on the 7th of March against the leaders of the New Force (FN) for the assault on the national headquarter of the CGIL in Rome, other offices of the trade union were targeted with writings and vandalism throughout Italy – from Jesi to Milan, passing for Foggia, Prato Forlì and Venice – at the hands of the same area made up of extreme right and no-vax. Meanwhile, the Minister of the Interior on the 24th March reported in the Senate on other attacks by neo-fascist groups in the Verona area, for which searches were carried out against 23 CasaPound (CPI) militants.

On the foreign front, new elements are discovered in the activism of the far-right with respect to the war in Ukraine, with a network of recruiters to send foreign fighters to the conflict zones, also through the “World Terror” telegram channel, used by the Russian services to influence public opinion. The journalist Paolo Berizzi, the only European reporter, who has been living under protection from neo-fascist and neo-Nazi threats since February 2019, confirms that for years the conflict in Donbas has been “a political ‘gym’ and a training camp”, in a sort of derby between FN sided with pro-Russian separatists and CPI alongside the neo-Nazi Azov battalion. The same call for the recruitment of foreign volunteers launched by the Ukrainian Foreign Minister, Kuleba, has gathered new members, but it is not yet clear the number of Italians who left to fight in the last month of the war among the 20,000, who responded to the call from all over Europe.

One of the most important is certainly Andrea Palmeri, alias “the Generalissimo”, sentenced in the first instance as a recruiter of Italian comrades destined for the Donbas front with the pro-Putin militias. Palmeri is noted in anti-terrorism documents for his links with the ‘Rusich’ battalion. Between Donetsk and Luhansk, there is still a militant photojournalist, Vittorio Nicola Rangeloni, who left in 2014 to join the pro-Russian militias and narrate the epic of fighters loyal to Russia on his profile VKontact, the Russian Facebook that has become a destination for neo-fascists banned from the American social network. Fiore himself is fond of the cause, since with the Alexandrite association he brought a group of Italian entrepreneurs to the Crimea after the annexation to Russia, in order to invest and relocate to the lands of the Kremlin.

Berizzi’s complaint concerns the danger of proliferation of weapons and militias linked to the European far-right, which has been arming itself for some time and aims to make the leap in quality, passing from propaganda to concrete facts, from words and slogans to actions on the field.

Another link between Italy and the conflict in Ukraine is represented by the Odesa gangster, Avakov, considered to lead the Kyiv-1 battalion and promoter of the integration of the Azov battalion into the national guard. In the past years, his villa in Rome had been plastered with posters and photographs of killed or injured political opponents, after the condemnation reports from the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights for war crimes, torture and illegal detentions perpetrated by the units under his command in Donbas.

On the ground, the first Italian victim in the conflict was registered on the 31st of March. Edy Ongaro, a Venetian from Portogruaro of 46 years old, was hit by a hand grenade in the town of Adveevka, north area of Donetsk. He had been in Ukraine since 2015, fighting with the internationalist ‘Prizrak’ brigade alongside pro-Russian separatists. “Bozambo”, as his nickname chosen in memory of a partisan of the Second World War, argued that the memory of the violence inflicted by the fascists on his family pushed him to fight with the pro-Russian rebels of the separatist republics.

Back in Italy, as in many other EU countries, the government pushes for the dispatch of weapons to Kyiv and the simultaneous increase in military spending up to 2% of GDP with 13bln.€ of further expenditures. Many right-wing pro-Putin parties, such as those led by Silvio Berlusconi, Matteo Salvini or Giorgia Meloni, who all had interesting relationships with the Russian President, tend now to hide their previous friendship and aligned themselves on pro-NATO and militarist positions. In the meanwhile, journalistic inquiries have revealed a special relationship between Putin’s consultant, the ideologue Aleksandr Dugin, and a Salvini trustee, a certain Gianluca Savoini, implicated in the ‘Metropol’ scandal for bribes. Alleged funding was discovered from the network of contacts, not only to the League but also to the homophobic and anti-abortion association Pro Vita, coming directly from funds of the Russian oligarch Konstantin Malofeev, banned for several years by EU sanctions.

Though this puzzling political majority stands for an “armed peace”, the Italian public opinion is nevertheless very sceptic and according to dermoscopic surveys, almost 54% of the interviewed population is against Italian rearmament. During this month in many cities, there have been hundreds of local demonstrations for peace, starting immediately after Russian invasion in Ukraine, with the biggest march held in Rome on the 6th of March by the Italian Network for Peace and Disarmament. Many artists and prominent figures also called for a second appointment on the 20th of march, organized by the spokesperson of the migrants USB trade union, Abubakar Sumahoro, always in Rome. On the same concept of “peace”, however, there is a tangible difference between the popular square and the institutional palace, with the latter always more interventionist and less representative of Italian public opinion.

In the last weeks, there have been workers’ demonstrations against the deployment of weapons, mostly at Pisa airport in Tuscany and at Genoa port, where workers blocked the access, refusing to upload weapons and take part in this arms traffic, supported by demonstrations by grassroots unions in their critics against wars both in Ukraine and in Yemen.