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Italy will not recognise Russian referendums, says Draghi

The outgoing Italian PM said that the country will regard any referendum held in Russian-controlled areas of Ukraine as ‘illegal’

Prime minister of Italy Mario Draghi (L) shakes hands with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky following their meeting in Mariinsky Palace, in Kyiv, on June 16, 2022.
Italy’s outgoing PM Mario Draghi said that Rome will regard any Russian annexation referendum as ‘illegal’. Photo by Sergei SUPINSKY / AFP

Italy will not recognise the results of “illegal” annexation referendums organised by Moscow in the Russian-occupied regions of Ukraine, Prime Minister Mario Draghi said on Thursday.

The Italian leader’s press office said that Draghi had spoken to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to reassure him of Rome’s “continued support” for Kyiv.

READ ALSO: Italy’s Salvini calls for Europe to ‘rethink’ sanctions on Russia

Draghi and Zelensky reportedly discussed the “illegal referendums” currently being held in the regions of Donetsk, Lugansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia – referendums which, in the words of the Italian PM, “Italy will not recognise”.

On Tuesday, Kremlin-installed authorities in the four above-mentioned Ukrainian regions claimed victory in the votes, saying that preliminary results showed a majority in favour of annexation by Moscow.

The following day, the leaders of Ukraine’s Lugansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions called on President Vladimir Putin to formally annex the territories to Russia.

Only Donetsk – whose Donbas region has been partially controlled by pro-Kremlin separatists since 2014 – had yet to formally ask Putin for annexation.

Italy has supported Ukraine since Russia invaded its territory in February, but Europe is currently watching closely to see whether the country will continue to do so after Sunday’s general elections were won by the Eurosceptic Brothers of Italy party.

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

Giorgia Meloni, the leader of the far-right coalition that triumphed at the polls, tweeted her “loyal support” for Ukraine on Tuesday.

However, her coalition partners – anti-immigration League leader Matteo Salvini and former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi – have long had ties with Moscow.

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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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