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UKRAINE

Italy slams ‘odious’ threats by Russia over sanctions

Italy reacted furiously Saturday to "odious and unacceptable" insults and threats by a senior Russian foreign ministry official attacking sanctions applied against Moscow for its invasion of Ukraine. 

Italy's Prime Minister, Mario Draghi looks on during a joint press conference with his Spanish, Portuguese and Greek (via video link) counterparts on March 18, 2022 in Rome.
Italy's Prime Minister, Mario Draghi looks on during a joint press conference with his Spanish, Portuguese and Greek (via video link) counterparts on March 18, 2022 in Rome. Photo by Tiziana FABI / AFP.

Alexey Paramonov, head of the Russian foreign ministry’s European department, accused Italy of falling victim to “anti-Russian hysteria”, in comments to the state-run RIA Novosti agency. 

He said Italy had forgotten centuries-long relations and bilateral agreements “in a second”.

He said he hoped French finance minister Bruno Le Maire’s vow earlier this month to “wage a total economic and financial war on Russia” would not “find followers in Italy and cause a series of appropriate irreversible consequences”. 

Le Maire subsequently walked back his comments, conceding they had been “inappropriate”. 

Paramonov said Russia had provided “significant assistance” to Italy during the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020, at the request of Italy’s defence minister Lorenzo Guerini. 

Guerini was now one of the main “hawks and instigators of the anti-Russian campaign” within the government in Rome, he said. 

Italy’s foreign ministry said it “firmly rejects the threatening statements” from Moscow. Rome and its partners would “continue to exert every pressure” to stop the Russian invasion of the Ukraine, it added. 

Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi condemned the “comparison between the invasion of Ukraine and the pandemic crisis in Italy” as “particularly odious and unacceptable”. 

Guerini said Italy would “not give weight to propaganda”, and continued to stand by Ukraine. 

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is set to address the Italian parliament on Tuesday. 

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PROTESTS

IN PICTURES: Thousands in Italy march for peace in Ukraine

Tens of thousands of Italians marched through Rome on Saturday calling for peace in Ukraine and urging Italy to stop sending of weapons to fight the Russian invasion.

IN PICTURES: Thousands in Italy march for peace in Ukraine

“No to war. No to sending weapons”, read one large banner carried by protesters, as a vast crowd broke into cries of “give peace a chance”.

People marching on November 5, 2022 in Rome holding a banner reading “Total disarmament and peace now”. (Photo by Tiziana FABI / AFP)

Nato founding member Italy has supported Ukraine from the start of the war, including providing it with arms.

A man takes part in the national peace demonstration by Italian civil society organisations working together in the Europe for Peace coalition, holding a placard reading “no more war, weapons and propaganda”. (Photo by Tiziana FABI / AFP)

New far-right Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni has said that will not change and the government has said it is expecting to send more weapons soon.

But some, including former prime minister Giuseppe Conte, have said Italy should be stepping up negotiations instead.

Leader of Italian populist Five Star movement M5S (Movimento Cinque Stelle), Giuseppe Conte (C) marches on November 5, 2022 in Rome. (Photo by Tiziana FABI / AFP)

The peace rally was attended by some 30,000 people, Rome police told Italian media.

“The weapons were sent at the beginning on the grounds that this would prevent an escalation,” demonstrator Roberto Zanotto told AFP.

People hold banners and placards at the march on November 5, 2022 in Rome. (Photo by Tiziana FABI / AFP)

“Nine months later and it seems to me that there’s been an escalation. Look at the facts: sending weapons does not help stop a war, weapons help fuel a war.”

Student Sara Gianpietro said the conflict was being dragged out by arming Ukraine, which “has economic consequences for our country, but for the respect of human rights too”.

The Group of Seven foreign ministers, including Italy, on Friday vowed to continue supporting Ukraine in the fight against Russia.

READ ALSO: Q&A: What can we expect from Italy’s new government?

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