Extremists of opposite political orientations, lined up on both fronts From the case of the contractor Fabrizio Quattrocchi, kidnapped and killed in Iraq in 2004, to Edy Ongaro, who died yesterday in the trenches in the Donbass: here are the Italian militiamen who left for the war, in some cases gone to fighting in Ukraine since 2014 Antonio Bonanata
The first volunteers of the International Legion of Territorial Defense of Ukraine
The death of Edy Ongaro , the Italian militiaman killed in the Donbass by the explosion of a hand grenade while fighting alongside the pro-Russian militias, reports in the foreground the theme of the so-called foreign fighters, those real legionaries with passports of the Italian Republic who in recent years have sided with the separatist forces of Donetsk and Lugansk . And who, in recent weeks, with the outbreak of hostilities in Ukraine, have found a new opportunity to take up arms and join the clashes.
Ansa / Northeast Red Star Collective
Edy Ongaro, 46, hit in the trench by a hand grenade
It is estimated that several dozen people from our country went to fight in Ukraine(about sixty), some of which have already been present in that territory for several years. These are people equally distributed between the two fighting factions, usually adult males with a medium-low socioeconomic level and without family members. Among Western countries, only Germany (150) and Serbia (100) would surpass Italy in terms of number of militiamen. After all, just go online to find recruitment methods and times: among the various sites available, Fight for Ukraine, which allows you to join the International Brigade in defense of the country under attack in seven simple steps.
And since the crisis of 2014, when the Euromaidan revolt broke out in Kiev, there have been numerous cases of Western militiamenwho, for the most diverse reasons (from ideological ones to purely personal reasons) have decided to join their respective fronts, now engaged in the bloody struggle for war supremacy: on the one hand, the pro- Russian separatist groups , which for years have supported the absorption of the two oblasts (provinces) of Donbass to the Russian Federation; on the other, the nationalist groups allied with the Ukrainian national army, accused by the enemy of being far-right “neo-Nazis” (the infamous “ Azov Battalion ”). In both camps, those who fight for Kiev and those who have their eyes turned to Moscow, Western militiamen have entered steadily, arriving in Ukraine from Europe and the United States. And also from Italy.
Photo archive Ansa
The bodyguard Fabrizio Quattrocchi, killed in Iraq in 2004 The precedent of 2004: Fabrizio Quattrocchi
It is not the first time that our country has to deal with this phenomenon: already in the second Iraqi war, which broke out in 2003 at the behest of the US administration of George W. Bush, there were several enlistments of contractors , defined by some as private security guards, by others as genuine mercenaries, who usually operate in war contexts or other crisis areas to support the activities of the regular army. On April 13, 2004 , a few months after Nassirya’s attack on the Carabinieri barracks, in which 19 Italian soldiers had died, the video of the execution ofFabrizio Quattrocchi , kidnapped together with his colleagues Umberto Cupertino, Maurizio Agliana and Salvatore Stefio, who in fact operated in Iraq as contractors alongside the regular forces. They were kidnapped by jihadist militiamen (we are talking about the Mujahideen Brigade or the Green Phalanges of Muhammad) and, after almost two months of imprisonment, they were released. Except for Fabrizio Quattrocchi, who was executed in front of a video camera that records the images of the execution before spreading them all over the world. The Quattrocchi story has become famous for the famous expression with which the contractor challenges his kidnappers: “Now I’ll show you how an Italian dies”.
Ansa / Northeast Red Star Collective
Another image of Edy Ongaro, killed yesterday in DonbassThe Farnesina: “Fighting abroad is a crime”
Regarding the possibility of Italian citizens joining the ongoing fighting in Ukraine, regardless of the belligerent side, our Foreign Ministry intervened , which in a note released last week clarified that “fighting in Ukraine is a crime”. The Farnesina in fact specified: “With regard to the news that appeared in some media outlets relating to the participation of Italian citizens in the conflict in Ukraine, the Farnesina recalls that such conduct can be considered criminally relevantpursuant to current legislation (articles 244 and 288 of the Criminal Code). Specifically, the two articles clarify that for “hostile acts towards a foreign state that expose the Italian state to the danger of war”, a sentence of between 4 and 15 years of imprisonment is envisaged (or even life imprisonment “if the war occurs” ), while “unauthorized enlistments or armaments in the service of a foreign state” are equally prohibited.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs also specified that, “to protect the safety of Italian citizens”, it is strongly advised not to “go to the country “. Also last Friday, March 25, the Russian Defense Ministry announced that almost 6,600 fighters have arrived in Ukraine from 62 foreign countries, at the invitation of the Kiev authorities, to fight against the Russian invasion. They are, specified the Moscow Foreign Ministry, “mercenaries and terrorists”.
Iryna Sergeyeva, Ukrainian volunteer fighter Predominantly right-wing extremists
Most of the foreign fighters in Ukraine – certified Francesco Marone in an analysis published on the ISPI website last February 25, once the war has just begun – would have extreme positions right (a percentage ranging from 50 to 80 percent of the total). By listing the most striking cases, without explicitly mentioning them, Marone spoke of militant historians of Italian neo-fascism, who had already worked for the pro-European and nationalistic cause of Euromaidan in 2014, both in Ukraine and abroad, and which later joined the Azov Battalion. Or, by Andrea Palmieri , probably the most famous of the Italian militiamen who moved to Ukraine: neo-fascist sympathizer and head ultras of his hometown, Palmieri (who “boasts” several accusations for episodes of intimidation and violence) went to Donbass the first time eight years ago, when he was still under special surveillance measures by the Italian authorities. Palmieri has never made a secret of his extremist positions, publicly supporting the cause of pro-Russian separatists. Last year he was sentenced in Italy to five years in prison.
But among the Italian foreign fighters who left for the front, there are also far-left sympathizers , who fighting alongside Russia want to recall the glorious past of Moscow, when Ukraine was an integral part of the Soviet empire. And precisely the case of Edy Ongaro, cited in Marone’s analysis more than a month before his death, who had left Italy in 2015 and, having arrived in the Donbass, had defined himself as an anti- fascist “internationalist” fighting “against injustices in the world “. Before the outbreak of the conflict, Edy Ongaro had hoped that Russia would invade Ukraine. Among the militiamen of Italian nationality, Giulia Shiff must also be mentioned, a Venetian pilot expelled from the Air Force and now joined the troops fighting for the freedom of Ukraine.
Giulia Shiff, Italian fighter in Ukraine
It can therefore be concluded by saying that most of the foreign militiamen (including Italians) fighting in Ukraine claim to have extremist political positions , showing hostile feelings towards the West and the its values. The onset of hostilities did nothing but exacerbate an already tense situation. The main fear, in fact, that it was then seen to materialize, and that foreign fighters, who had abandoned the theater of war, would return there. Furthermore, it cannot be excluded that the prolongation of the crisis in Ukraine could provoke anew wave of foreign fighters , made up of volunteers and mercenaries ready to offer their contribution, even at the cost of living.

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