Jorit's photo with Putin, reactions: useful idiot, propagandist, mercenary...

Bipartisan outrage over street artist Jorit's photo with Putin. So many urge him to move to Russia, or to test Putin's humanity by trying to paint a mural with Politkovskaya in Moscow. And reactions from politicians are not slow in coming.

There have been many reactions aroused by the photograph that Jorit, nickname of Neapolitan street artist Ciro Cerullo, had taken with Russian President Vladimir Putin during a youth forum in Soči, where Cerullo went along with other Italians including actress Ornella Muti and the latter’s daughter Naike Rivelli. Jorit, who was present in the audience to watch a speech by Putin, eventually, at the moment of questions addressed to the president, asked to have his picture taken with him “to show in Italy that you are human like everyone else, that the propaganda they are spreading everywhere is not real, that we are human and that we are all part of the human tribe.” In a video that captures the entire sequence, he is then seen coming down from the stands, having his picture taken, and then returning to his seat beaming and gloating amid signs of jubilation.

There are strong suspicions that this was an episode piloted by Russian propaganda, given the difficulty on the part of Italians in obtaining visas to enter Russia after the start of the war in Ukraine, and given the extreme difficulty of approaching, even from a distance, the Kremlin’s number one: the doubt is therefore spreading that it was all orchestrated to appeal to the Italian media. Jorit, however, has been covered with insults on social media: the kindest have invited him to move permanently to Russia, others suggest that he try to paint a mural in Moscow depicting dissident journalist Anna Politkovskaya to test Putin’s humanity, and still others ask Italian institutions not to give Cerullo any more assignments (Jorit in fact on several occasions has worked with the support of local institutions).

Political reactions also varied. Among the first to make himself heard was Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani , who considers Jorit nothing more than a propagandist: “Propaganda,” said the minister, "was the art of the KGB, disinformacija was the art of the USSR, and evidently there is still someone in Russia who uses this art to try to get others in trouble. Italy is on the side of Ukraine but that does not mean we are at war with the Russian people. The Italian people are friends of the Russian people but we do not want the Russian army to invade Ukraine."

Decidedly harsher is the reaction of Federico Mollicone (Fratelli d’Italia), chairman of the Cultural Commission in the Chamber: “The images of the ’Italian delegation’, formed by Ornella Muti, her daughter Naike and the street artist Jorit, in Russia are shocking. They are mercenaries, artists in the hat of the post-Soviet dictator Putin. Respect for Russian culture and art is one thing, lending themselves to war propaganda operation, all the more so after Navalny’s assassination. Pecunia non olet, but in this case it oozes blood.”

Action leader Carlo Calenda is also very critical: “Dictators,” he says, “have always found a foothold in paid ’useful idiots’ or simply seeking notoriety. This is nothing new and not even particularly relevant considering that we have a vice prime minister formally allied with Putin’s party.” Also of the same opinion is MEP Fabio Massimo Castaldo of Action: “Opinion leaders, journalists and even self-styled artists like Jorit: Russian propaganda continues to up its game by any means to manipulate public opinion in the run-up to the elections. How much of a real strategy to prevent Italy from remaining the soft underbelly of Europe?”

The mayor of Naples, Gaetano Manfredi, expresses his condemnation in a generic way: “I think that on the judgment we have on Putin and the strong condemnation for the invasion of Ukraine there is no doubt.” Pd MEP Pina Picierno calls for action: “I have asked the European Commission and the Council of the European Union,” she says, “to include Jorit in the list of individuals subject to sanctions. I hope that the Italian and European public administrations will immediately revoke funding and contracts in his favor. It is necessary to act promptly against active measures and attempts to influence the Kremlin against our country.” Party colleague Pierfrancesco Maran, alderman for Housing of the City of Milan, says, “I read Jorit saying that he wanted to prove that Putin is human; after all, so was Hitler when he was painting this picture. In every man, even in the worst, there is humanity, the problem is when it is put aside to bomb and invade another people.”

“Without prejudice to the freedom of expression and manifestation of one’s ideas,” says MP Piero De Luca of the PD, “the picture of Jorit embracing Putin is a slap in the face for those who believe in democracy. There are inviolable principles, unquestionable values of freedom, respect for human rights, sovereignty of peoples, peace, which must be defended and safeguarded every day. Putin’s unacceptable aggression against Ukraine challenges all these basic values. The attempt to rewrite territorial borders with weapons, the crimes committed on the ground, the attacks on civilians are not acts in the face of which it is possible to turn a blind eye or look the other way. Not to mention the violent suppression of all forms of internal opposition. That is why I say to Jorit that his embrace, his statements, are very serious and represent a deep wound for those who believe in and fight for democracy and freedom.” Riccardo Magi of Europa+ also intervened in the discussion, “I am one of those who believe that artists and art should be free and never subject to censorship. That is why I don’t want to say anything to Jorit except that it is easy to be an anti-Western artist in the West: why doesn’t he try to be an anti-Russian artist in Putin’s Russia? To all those artists persecuted by Putin’s regime who had to leave Russia to freely practice their art I want to reiterate today my solidarity and closeness.”

Jorit's photo with Putin, reactions: useful idiot, propagandist, mercenary...
Jorit's photo with Putin, reactions: useful idiot, propagandist, mercenary...

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