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Italy condemns Russian invasion of Ukraine and summons ambassador

Italy on Thursday summoned the Russian ambassador after the Kremlin launched an air and ground assault on Ukraine, which Prime Minister Mario Draghi said was an "unjustified and unprovoked aggression".

Italy condemns Russian invasion of Ukraine and summons ambassador
Ukrainian security personnel inspect the remains of a shell in a street in Kyiv on February 24, 2022. Photo by Sergei Supinsky / AFP

Moscow’s “extremely serious” attack on the former Soviet republic was “a clear and distinct violation of international law,” Italy’s foreign ministry said.

Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi on Thursday described Russia’s attack on Ukraine as “unjustified and unjustifiable,” saying Europe and NATO were working on an immediate response.

EXPLAINED: How Italy could be impacted by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine

“The Italian Government condemns Russia’s attack on Ukraine. It is unjustified and unjustifiable. Italy is close to the Ukrainian people and institutions in this dramatic moment. We are working with European and NATO allies to respond immediately, with unity and determination,” Draghi said in a statement.

Draghi called a meeting of the government’s security committee over the offensive, which was launched by Russian President Vladimir Putin in the early hours of Thursday after a surprise televised address.

Support for Ukraine will be on the agenda at an emergency summit to be held in Brussels late Thursday.

The summit follows the EU’s adoption of sanctions against Russia for declaring pro-Moscow separatist regions of Ukraine to be independent and mandating military forces to enter them.

Overnight, the Kremlin said the heads of eastern Ukraine’s rebel republics had asked Russian President Vladimir Putin for “help” to “repel aggression” from the Ukrainian army.

Unlike most of its Western neighbours, Italy has historically relatively friendly ties with Putin, backed by strong, long-standing investments by Italian corporations in Russia.

Putin recently stressed the importance of energy industry ties between Russia and Italy, which is one of the European countries most reliant on imports of natural gas.

But since becoming prime minister in February 2021, Draghi has emphasised Italy’s commitments to the EU and NATO.

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POLITICS

Italy’s government to continue sending weapons to Ukraine in 2023

Italy's new government issued a decree on Thursday to continue sending weapons to Ukraine through 2023, continuing the previous administration's policy of support to Kyiv.

Italy's government to continue sending weapons to Ukraine in 2023

The decree extends to December 31, 2023 an existing authorisation for “the transfer of military means, materials and equipment to the government authorities of Ukraine,” according to a government statement.

Since taking office in October, Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni has repeatedly voiced her support for Kyiv while underlying the importance of the Atlantic alliance.

In her first speech to parliament, the leader of the Brothers of Italy party pledged to “continue to be a reliable partner of NATO in supporting Ukraine.”

Her predecessor Mario Draghi was a staunch supporter of Kyiv, but the issue of sending arms to Ukraine split the biggest party in parliament during his coalition government, the Five Star Movement.

That friction led to the early elections that brought Meloni to power.

Parliament now has 60 days to vote the decree into law.

READ ALSO: Outcry in Italy after Berlusconi defends Putin’s invasion of Ukraine

Despite Meloni’s efforts to reassure her Western allies of Italy’s support for the EU’s and NATO’s Ukraine strategy, including sanctions on Russia, the close ties to Russia of her two coalition partners have come under scrutiny.

Both Matteo Salvini of the League party and former premier Silvio Berlusconi, who leads Forza Italia, have long enjoyed warm relations with Russia.

In October, an audio tape of Berlusconi was leaked to the media in which the former premier described how he had received a birthday present of vodka from Russian President Vladimir Putin.

In the tape, he also expressed concerns about sending weapons and cash to Kyiv and appeared to blame the war on Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky.

Berlusconi later issued a statement saying his personal position on Ukraine “does not deviate” from that of Italy and the EU.

Since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, Salvini, too, has come under fire for his relations with Moscow, including a report that he dined with Russia’s ambassador to Rome just days after that country’s invasion of Ukraine.

Salvini, who has criticised EU sanctions as ineffective, has long admired Putin, even wearing T-shirts emblazoned with the Russian leader’s face.

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