In response to the arrival of (inappropriate) medical supplies from Moscow to the Pratica di Mare military airport, Italy, as well as of military means and high-ranking officers affiliated to the Russian Ministry of Defence to cope with the #COVID19 pandemic (March 22, 2020), ODF, together with other fifteen non-governmental organisations, promoted a letter of appeal addressed to Italy’s PM Giuseppe Conte.
The Russian Federation has been subject to sanctions by the European Union due to the illegal occupation of the territories of Crimea and Donbas since March 2014 and the EU remains the target of Russian propaganda. For this reason, human rights organisations and associations from different countries urged Italy’s PM Giuseppe Conte to closely monitor the extent and risks of Russian military operation on Italian soil. The importance of openness in the communication of details of the Moscow-led operation not only imply serious security issues for a NATO member state but also Italy and the EU’s democratic values as evident by the recent actions. The Russian government has indeed proven a lack of promptness and transparency in response to the containment of COVID-19, censoring, among other things, independent media outlets and witnesses of this mismanagement. In a worrying move, the Russian Minister of Defence tried to undermine Italy’s freedom of press, addressing journalists of the Italian newspaper La Stampa, who bravely covered the story, with threats and intimidation.
The signatories underlined that considering the political and propagandistic schemes that Moscow put in motion to jeopardize the European project, the Russian presence in Italy is an alarming fact. Therefore, in the spirit of solidarity and openness, which are distinctive traits of the European Union and Italy, the physical presence of Russian soldiers, even if motivated by the health crisis, should be carefully monitored and communicated.