In an interview with the BBC, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte has said Russian aid to Italy, until now the country that has registred the highest number of CoViD-19 deaths, has come with no strings attached.

Answering to a question from BBC journalist Mark Lowen, who asked if Russia was planning to use aid to have sanctions lifted, the Italian PM replied: “The mere insinuation is a great offense to me, to the whole Italian government.”

“To think that the aid that we are getting from Russia, China or other countries could influnce the geopolitical stance of Italy is a big offense – and not just for me, also for Vladimir Putin, with whom I had a long phone call and who would never dream of using this as leverage in this moment.”

“It was absolutely never asked, it was not even thought of.”

The BBC had joined before a chorus of other Western media outlets, questioning the real motivations of Russian aid delivered to Italy, in a series of articles aimed at conveying the impression that ordinary Italians were not grateful about the help coming from Russia, rather they very worried.

Some news outlets spoke of a war of words between Italy and Russia around the issue of Russian spies, who allegedly might have been sent along the 100 Russian military medics that were included in the aid mission.

The mediatic snowball originated with two articles published in the Italian daily La Stampa, in which the author claimed that according to some high-placed sources 80% of the Russian delivery, that included ventilators, was useless and remembered that the last time Russian personnel was welcomed in a country was before the 1979 invasion of Afghanistan.

The author of the article defended himself saying he did not maintain anything and was only quoting sources, arguing that Russia had to right to criticise the coverage because Italy has a free press. Jacopo Jacoboni, the author of the article, has worked before with the US think tank Atlantic Council, and worked on a report on Russian Trojan Horses in Europe that was published in 2017.

The articles in La Stampa were followed by a spate of publications accross of wide spectrum of Italian and international media outlets that gave the impression that Italians and the Italian government were increasingly corcerned about 100 Russian military medics – some argued they could possible pay the way for an “invasion” of the country.

Stefano Di Lorenzo