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PM Meloni stresses Italy's support for Ukraine on visit to Kyiv

AFP
AFP - [email protected]
PM Meloni stresses Italy's support for Ukraine on visit to Kyiv
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky (R) and Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni (L) attend a joint press conference after their meeting in Kyiv on February 21, 2023. Photo by Genya SAVILOV / AFP.

Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni said Tuesday that Rome "does not intend to waver" in its support for Ukraine as she visited Kyiv days before the first anniversary of Russia's invasion.

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"I wanted to do it (come to Ukraine) to reiterate Italy's full support for Ukraine in the face of Russian aggression, to reiterate that Italy does not intend to waver," Meloni said during a joint press conference with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

The Italian leader also visited Irpin and Bucha, towns just outside Kyiv that were devastated during Russia's unsuccessful bid to seize the capital last year.

"It's different, seeing it with one's own eyes. I will do everything to tell every Italian what I've seen," she said.

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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.

But Meloni said sending jets is "not on the table" for the moment and it's a decision to be made "in consultation with international partners".

Zelensky criticised earlier remarks of former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, who has a personal relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin going back years.

READ ALSO: Italy affirms support for Ukraine after latest Berlusconi outburst

"Mr Berlusconi... his house was never bombed with missiles daily, I suppose. And thank God his partner from Russia did not drive into his yard on a tank, and did not destroy his family and friends," Zelensky said.

Meloni took office in October and leads the far-right Brothers of Italy party but has also distanced herself from the more pro-Russian partners in her governing coalition.

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.

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

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

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