PM Draghi’s speech
In the early afternoon of Wednesday, Prime Minister Mario Draghi held a brief speech on the ongoing Russian aggression in Ukraine, which he called “a European country, a friendly nation” and “a democracy whose legitimate sovereignty has been attacked.”
He expressed “full and unconditional solidarity” to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and the Ukrainian people on behalf of the Italian people and government. “What is happening in Ukraine concerns all of us, our living as free people, our democracy,” he said.
He also confirmed that the Italian embassy in Kiyv would remain open, fully operational, “on high alert” and “ready to take any necessary decisions” in close coordination with the Ukrainian authorities and the other Embassies, reminding that 2,000 Italians reside in the country.
The PM then remarked that Italy and its allies had always wanted to seek a peaceful solution to the crisis. “I have always believed that any form of dialogue must be sincere and, above all, useful,” he said, “[but] the actions of the Russian government in recent days made [dialogue] de facto impossible.”
He called on Russian President Vladimir Putin to “put an immediate end to the bloodshed and to withdraw his military forces unconditionally from the internationally recognised borders of Ukraine” on behalf of Italy, the EU and all allies.
Mr Draghi then said he had heard from EU partners, including French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen.
“With NATO Allies, we are coordinating to immediately enhance security measures on the Eastern flank of the Alliance and we are strengthening our already significant contribution to military deployment in all most directly exposed Allied countries. Tomorrow there will also be an extraordinary meeting of NATO leaders.”
The PM went on to say that he would consult with G7 partners, where the NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg is also scheduled to participate, and he would then fly to Brussels to attend an extraordinary European Council session where EU partners “would decide on a very tough sanctions package against Russia.”
“Now is the time to apply them,” he added, stating that “Italy is fully aligned with its partners on this position […] We have our allies at our side – Europe, the United States, and many more countries. Together we will do whatever it takes to preserve Ukraine’s sovereignty, Europe’s security, and the integrity of the international rule-based order and the values we all share.”
Earlier on Wednesday morning
On Thursday Italy awoke to find itself witnessing a full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine. Upon instructions from the chief of diplomacy Luigi Di Maio, the Foreign Ministry’s Secretary-General Ettore Sequi summoned the Russian ambassador to Italy, Sergey Razov.
The government’s reactions
Ambassador Sequi took care of relaying Mr Di Maio’s message on behalf of the Italian government, expressing “firm condemnation for the very serious, unjustified and unprovoked aggression against Ukraine,” seen as a “clear and sharp violation of international law.”
Earlier in the morning, Prime Minister Mario Draghi declared that Italy stood by the Ukrainian people and was working with EU and NATO allies to “respond immediately, with unity and determination” to the “unjustified and unjustifiable attack on Ukraine on behalf of Russia”.
“Russia is the sole responsible for this unacceptable aggression,” reiterated the government’s Undersecretary Enzo Amendola, who’s responsible for EU affairs, in a tweet. “Italy, the EU, NATO, the free world, we all stand with the Ukrainian people.”
PM Draghi called for all ministers to convene on Wednesday morning. Throughout the day he’ll also attend a G7 video conference, a Supreme Defence Council meeting and an extraordinary European Council summit.
The main parties’ reactions (left to right)
The Democratic Party declared that Russian President Vladimir Putin “tramples on the principles of freedom and democracy, the non-negotiable values of Europe” and urged to “stand together and act now.” It, along with party leader Enrico Letta, called on Parliament to convene immediately and vote “on the unambiguous condemnation of [Mr] Putin’s Russia.”
Giuseppe Conte, former PM and leader of the Five Star Movement, tweeted that the Russian attack “precipitates the situation and distances any diplomatic solution. We trust in a common European response and in the contribution that Italy can make.”
The second-in-command of Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia, Antonio Tajani, also condemned the aggression and supported Western unity “in the face of this umpteenth violation of the United Nations Charter”. As of Wednesday morning, Mr Berlusconi had not spoken on the issue, despite having expressed his preoccupation earlier this week.
On his part, the leader of the League Matteo Salvini did not directly name Russia or Mr Putin. He tweeted the image of an explosion in Ukraine and hoped that “everything would soon stop and reason would prevail. [The] League strongly condemns all military aggression, hopes for an immediate stop to the violence, and supports [PM] Draghi for a common response from the allies,” reads the tweet.
However, the League’s division in the European Parliament – which also heads the Identity and Democracy Group – took a more direct approach. Through a note, Marco Zanni, ID’s president, and Marco Campomenosi, leader of the League EP delegation, issued a “strong condemnation of Russian military aggression against Ukraine,” expressed “full solidarity with the Ukrainian people,” and urged the West to “react unitedly.”
Finally, Giorgia Meloni – who leads Brothers of Italy – took to Facebook to express herline on the “unacceptable large-scale war attack by [Mr] Putin’s Russia on Ukraine.” Stating that “it is time to make choices,” she called on the West and the international community to “be united in taking every useful measure to support Kiyv and respect for international law.”