'Ukraine can count on Italy': Italian PM Meloni heads to Kyiv

AFP , Tuesday 21 Feb 2023

Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni was heading to Kyiv on Tuesday for talks with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, local media reported.

Meloni
File photo: Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni holds her year-end press conference in Rome, Thursday, Dec. 29, 2022. AP

 

Meloni, who took office in October, has repeatedly expressed a desire to visit Ukraine to demonstrate her government's support following Russia's invasion almost exactly one year ago.

NATO member Italy has provided cash and weapons to help Ukraine, and earlier this month agreed to send mobile surface-to-air missile systems that it has jointly developed with France.

"We have provided financial, military, humanitarian and civilian support" to Kyiv "and Ukraine can certainly count on Italy because we have shown since the start... that we were here (for Kyiv) and we will continue to be here," Meloni said at a press conference in Warsaw on Monday.

Meloni, who leads the far-right Brothers of Italy party, has also distanced herself from the more pro-Russian partners in her governing coalition.

Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini, leader of the far-right League party, has in the past spoken admiringly of Vladimir Putin and even worn a T-shirt bearing the Russian president's face.

Meanwhile former premier Silvio Berlusconi, whose Forza Italia party is the junior partner in the coalition, has sought to shift blame for the war away from Moscow, most recently earlier this week when he criticised Zelensky.

Meloni's office responded by emphasising its "firm and committed" support for Ukraine.

Former Italian premier Mario Draghi visited Kyiv in July 2022 with French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

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