Ukraine's Foreign Ministry condemned an event on the "rebirth" of Mariupol after Russia's brutal siege, planned by an Italian pro-Russian association, as propaganda and a provocation, Ukrainska Pravda reported on Jan. 4, citing Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Oleh Nikolenko.
The Russian Cultural Association of Emilia Romagna announced on Jan. 3 that an event would be held in a civic hall in Modena on Jan. 20 about Russia's "rapid reconstruction" of Mariupol in Donetsk Oblast.
The city came under siege by Russian forces between February and May 2022, leaving thousands dead and reducing the city to rubble. Satellite images showed the expansion of mass graves near the city in the months following the start of Russia's occupation.
The Facebook post about the event, written in Italian and Russian, refers to the "liberation" of Mariupol by Russia.
The event lists Russian Ambassador to Italy Dmitry Shodin as a speaker. Another speaker is Eliseo Bertolasi, an Italian pro-Kremlin journalist who claimed to be a foreign observer of Russia's sham referendum in Russian-occupied territories of Ukraine in September 2022.
Nikolenko told Ukrainska Pravda that the Foreign Affairs Ministry has already instructed the Ukrainian Embassy in Rome to prepare an official appeal.
"At an official level, Italy resolutely supports the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine. And we expect that there will be an appropriate reaction to this propaganda event," Nikolenko noted.
According to news outlet Modena Today, Paolo Zanca, a local official, said that Modena Mayor Gian Carlo Muzzarelli should "clarify the municipality's position regarding the invasion of Ukraine."
"Mariupol is the symbol of the unspeakable horrors of Putin's ogres, not least the bombing of the Drama Theater with 600 civilians murdered, many of whom were children. It was one of the worst war crimes committed since the Russian invasion, as also recognized by Amnesty International," Zanca told Modena Today.
Senator Enrico Borghi posted on X that it was "unacceptable" that such an event is being organized in a public place.
"A pro-Russian association launches its propaganda on Mariupol, a Ukrainian city razed to the ground by Putin, in a public hall in Modena. The attempt to subvert the truth, to pollute communication, and now even to glorify reconstruction continues," Borghi said.
Lawmaker Lia Quartapelle also said she hoped that the mayor of Modena would react.
"When we say that we must protect ourselves from interference, it also means avoiding giving public spaces to propaganda initiatives for Russia carried out on the backs of Mariupol, a city devastated by Putin," Quartapelle posted on X.
Muzzarelli responded to Quartapelle on X that the event has received no financial support from the local council.
It is not a "municipal conference, there is no municipal patronage," but "I will check what I can do," Muzzarelli wrote. "Our position alongside the invaded country has been very clear from day one," the mayor said.