Tensions between Russia and the Atlantic allies is not news, but rather a trend. What is worth noting is that this applies not only at global and multilateral levels, but also to regional and local issues, as part of the glocalization phenomenon.
Artem Uss, the Russian businessman and son of the governor of a Siberian region, was arrested on 17 October on an international arrest warrant issued by the New York judicial authorities. The Milan Court of Appeals then granted extradition to the United States. Uss, who was waiting to appeal the judge's order, disappeared last week from his home in the Milan area, where he was under house arrest. During his escape, Uss was able to break his electronic bracelet, eliminating any chance of Italian authorities tracking him down. Uss drove away and it is not ruled out that he may have already managed to leave Italy, perhaps on a private plane bound for some other Schengen country with less stringent controls. All that before finally making his way back home to Russia, where his wife had recently returned.
According to La Stampa, Uss did not escape on his own. Everything had been planned in detail, perhaps even before the appeals court gave the go-ahead for his extradition to the United States on charges of criminal association, defrauding the state, illegal trade in embargoed Venezuelan oil, bank fraud and money laundering. At the end of the court proceedings, ongoing for more than five months due to the "double jeopardy requirement," the Milan Court of Appeals gave the go-ahead for Uss's extradition. But it was on only two of the four counts: bank fraud and the oil smuggling scheme, for which Uss faces up to 30 years in prison in the US. The judges ruled out fraud to the US and money laundering, however, because given the way the rules for those crimes are worded, there is nothing corresponding in the Italian legal code.
The 40-year-old Russian businessman, who was first put in prison and then after a few days under house arrest in his home in Basiglio (Milan), ended up at the center of a delicate case that touches on relations between states — in particular the US and Russia. In a complex international scenario, given the ongoing war in Ukraine, Uss's defense had pointed out in a hearing that the man's arrest was aimed, so the lawyers had said, at a ”prisoner exchange.” They claimed that the US would be interested in obtaining the release of Paul Whelan, a businessman and ex-marine sentenced to 16 years in Moscow in 2020 on accusations of international espionage. On 21 October, Putin's spokesman Dmitri Peskov had said that ”Russian diplomatic missions will do their best to protect the interests of Uss.”
Relations between Italy and Russia are getting rustier, both because of the invasion in Ukraine, but also because of the strong Atlantic feeling brought with the new Meloni government in Italy. One indicator is surely found in the Russian media and its propaganda. At the end of February, Vladimir Solovyov, Vladimir Putin's propagandist and TV star, took aim at Italy in one of his monologues devoted to the war between Russia and Ukraine, during his program on broadcaster Rossya 1:
"We'll cross the Alps one more time if we have to, we' ll see what the Suvorov monument looks like and see if they remember in Milan how they kissed the hands of Russian soldiers (referring to the campaign of General Aleksandr Vasilevic Suvorov, who faced French troops between Switzerland and northern Italy in 1799). If you want to be hard on us, you bastards, know that the Russians start slow but gallop fast".
That was the comical threat of Solovyov, former tourist and lover of Italy. He owned 3 villas on Lake Como in northern Italy, until the operation of Italy's Guardia di Finanza (ie financial police) in October 2022 that froze his assets, along with those of many other Russian oligarchs. It was one of the actions included in the sanctions by the Italian Ministry of Economy following the Russian invasion of Ukraine.