Italy prepares to receive Ukrainian refugees as first coaches arrive in north

Italy is preparing to receive an influx of refugees from the Russia-Ukraine war, as Ukrainians fleeing the invasion have started arriving in the north of the country.

A bus evacuates passengers from Donetsk on February 19, 2022.
A bus evacuates passengers from Donetsk on February 19, 2022. Photo by AFP

On Sunday, a coach filled with approximately 50 people, most of them women and children, arrived in the northeastern city of Trieste, reports the Ansa news agency.

Another bus containing around 40 people, one of them a nine-month-old baby, reportedly arrived in Piacenza in Emilia Romagna after travelling through the night.

Vittorio Zappalorto, the prefect of Venice, said several hundred more have already arrived in the Veneto region. Between 300 and 440 were expected to arrive in northwestern Genoa shortly, the news agency AGI reported.

READ ALSO: Italy closes airspace to Russian planes and sends €110 million to Ukraine

Most reportedly intend to stay with relatives, friends and acquaintances in the north of the country, though some were moving south towards Rome, Ansa said.

Italy hosts one of the largest Ukrainian communities in Europe, with media outlets estimating the country’s Ukrainian population to number somewhere between 230,000 and 248,000 people.

People sit in a bus for their evacuation in Donetsk on February 19, 2022.

People sit in a bus for their evacuation in Donetsk on February 19, 2022. Photo by AFP

As the first trickle of evacuees arrived over the weekend, individual Italian cities had already begun preparing their initial crisis response, assisted by members of the Ukrainian diaspora.

Mayors from towns and cities throughout the country voiced their willingness to open their doors to Ukrainians displaced by the war, with Bologna having reportedly identified six structures that can be used to provide emergency accommodation.

Trieste has in the first instance made space to accommodate approximately 1,000 people, according to Gianfranco Schiavone, president of the non-profit Italian Solidarity Consortium-Refugee Agency (ICS).

READ ALSO: How you can help Ukrainian media

Schiavone called on Italy to put in place an operational programme to receive the large numbers of Ukrainians expected to seek asylum in Italy.

More than 500,000 people have fled the country so far, according to the UN’s High Commissioner for Refugees – a figure which could rise as high as four million if the conflict intensifies.

The EU’s Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson told reporters in Brussels on Sunday that the EU should prepare to receive millions of refugees.

“I am proud of how the European citizens at the borders are showing concrete solidarity with Ukrainians fleeing this terrible, aggressive war,” she reportedly said.

READ ALSO: EU warns bloc nations to brace for millions of Ukraine refugees

Speaking at European Interior Affairs Council in Brussels on Sunday, Italy’s Interior Minister Luciana Lamorgese said Italy was ready to play its part in accommodating refugees.

“For me, solidarity has always been a staple of our European agenda, and now even more so, we will offer maximum solidarity to a people who are suffering,” Lamorgese reportedly said, adding that Italy was prepared to accept additional refugees via EU redistribution quotas.

Member comments

  1. We have a large property in Umbria as anyone any idea how we can offer accomodation to displaced Ukrainian families.

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Italian energy company to start paying for Russian gas in rubles

Italian energy company Eni confirmed it is opening accounts in rubles with Gazprombank to pay for gas supplies, complying with Moscow's demands.

Italian energy company to start paying for Russian gas in rubles

Eni said in a statement on Tuesday it was opening accounts in rubles and euros with Gazprom Bank “on a precautionary basis” as “deadlines for the payment of gas supplies are scheduled for the next few days”.

It was not immediately clear whether the move would fall foul of European Union sanctions, although Eni said it was “not incompatible”.

The company said its decision to open the accounts was “taken in compliance with the current international sanctions framework” and that Italian authorities had been informed.

READ ALSO: Italy will ‘soon’ stop buying gas from Russia, says minister

Vladimir Putin demanded at the end of March that payment be made in rubles or the gas supply to European countries would be cut off, as he hit back at sanctions placed on Russia by EU countries following its invasion of Ukraine.
Eni’s CEO Claudio Descalzi said at the time that his company would not comply with the demands, saying “Eni doesn’t have rubles” and “the contracts say fuel payments should be made in euros”.
But many European companies and their lawyers have since been looking at ways to meet the demand without breaching sanctions aimed at punishing Russia for the war in Ukraine, reports Bloomberg.
EU officials had said opening a ruble account would breach sanctions. But its latest guidelines, to be published this week, are expected to stop short of banning bank accounts in rubles and  therefore allow companies to keep buying Russian gas, Bloomberg reports.
Like other European countries, Italy says it is working to reduce its heavy reliance on Russian energy imports in the wake of the Ukraine war.

But the Italian government has so far resisted calls to boycott Russian oil and gas.

Italy is highly dependent on Russian gas, importing 95 percent of the gas it consumes, of which around 40 percent comes from Russia.