Concerns have arisen that a wounded Italian journalist might influence pro-Putin parties in the upcoming Italian elections.
Italian journalist Mattia Sorbi, who went missing in mid-August, has reappeared in a hospital in Kherson, currently controlled by the Russian Federation. The freelancer was traveling in a car with a Ukrainian driver when it hit a landmine. The driver was killed and Sorbi was wounded in the leg.
According to the Italian Foreign Ministry, Sorbi “is in a good state of health. He has been treated and we are working to bring him back to Italy as soon as possible.”
Sorbi himself wrote on his Facebook page: “I am fine and safe, but unfortunately the communication difficulties in Ukraine prevented me from being online as usual. It will probably be like this for a few more days, but the important thing is not to have any problems.”
Russian news agency TASS reports that Sorbi was “hospitalized in an intensive care unit with numerous shrapnel wounds and is receiving all the necessary treatment. His condition is stable.”
The Russian Defense Ministry claims that Sorbi was wounded by a mine as part of a Ukrainian provocation to “accuse the Russian armed forces.”
According to the Ukrainian Center for Strategic Communications, Mattia Sorbi disappeared on August 31. First, he went to Mykolaiv and from there he went voluntarily to Kherson, despite being warned of the extreme danger, crossing through towns that were in a no-go zone due to heavy fighting.
The Russian accusation is of concern to Ukraine because the correspondent had worked in the past for Zvezda, the TV channel of the Russian Defense Ministry. “We can assume that Sorbi had previous agreements with the Russian army,” the Center added.
In May 2014, after fighting broke out in the Donbas, another Italian journalist-photographer, Andrea Rocchelli, was killed when the car he was travelling in was hit by a shell. The Ukrainian National Guard fighting in Sloviansk was accused of firing on the photographer. One of those national guardsmen, Vitali Markov, who had been living in Italy since the age of 16, was arrested in 2017 after returning to Italy.
In 2019 he was sentenced to 24 years in prison, but the ruling was overturned in 2020, and Markov was fully acquitted in 2021.
The Rocchelli case was notorious in Italy for the way it patently used hearsay from pro-Russia media workers to prosecute an innocent soldier.
The current concern is that Sorbi may use his situation to spread anti-Ukrainian propaganda in Italy in the run-up to the elections on Sept. 25.
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