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 slams 'odious' threats by Russia over sanctions
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 at Villa Madama in Rome, following their meeting in preparation of an upcoming March 24-25 European Council summit. (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. 

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


How long will it take Italy to wean itself off Russian gas?

Italy's government has repeatedly said it plans to end its dependence on Russia for gas supplies following the invasion of Ukraine. But as the timeline keeps changing, when and how could this happen?

How long will it take Italy to wean itself off Russian gas?

Italy is heavily dependent on Russian gas, but has been seeking new sources since Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine as part of an effort to end this reliance in the coming years.

But it remains unclear whether Italy can really end its dependence on Russia for its gas supply – or when this might be feasible.

READ ALSO: What does Italy’s Algerian gas deal mean for energy supplies?

The government has been seeking new sources since Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, including with a recent deal to boost supplies from Algeria.

Prime Minister Mario Draghi said last week the country could be independent of Russian gas by the second half of 2024 – the latest in a series of changing estimates.

“Government estimates indicate that we can make ourselves independent from Russian gas in the second half of 2024,” Draghi told the Senate, while adding that the “first effects” of this plan would be felt by the end of this year.

He said his government was also seeking to boost its production of renewable energy, including by “destroying bureaucratic barriers” to investment, saying it was the “only way” to free Italy from having to import fossil fuels.

Explained: Why and how Italy will pay for Russian gas in rubles

In April, Italy‘s Ecological Transition Minister Roberto Cingolani estimated the country would no longer need Russian gas within 18 months, following an earlier prediction that it could take until 2025.

Italy is one of Europe’s biggest users and importers of natural gas, importing 90 percent of its gas supply with 45 percent of that coming from Russia – up from 27 percent ten years ago.

Italy now imports 29 billion cubic metres of Russian gas a year, which Cingolani said in March “must be replaced” – but he didn’t specify with what.

Analysts have said there are “a lot of questions” about how helpful Italy’s gas deal with Algeria will be.

Despite its vast natural gas reserves, Algeria is already exporting at close to full capacity.

Draghi repeated his strong support for EU sanctions on Moscow last week, including a proposed ban on imports of Russian oil, although this is currently being blocked by Hungary.

“We must continue to keep up the pressure on Russia through sanctions, because we must bring Moscow to the negotiating table,” he said.

But for now, Italian energy giant Eni says it plans to pay for Russian gas supplies in rubles, meeting a demand from Vladimir Putin.

It was not immediately clear whether the plan 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.