Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni of Italy met with President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine in Kyiv on Tuesday, and pledged to continue to provide military, financial and humanitarian support. She also said she backed Ukraine’s entry into the European Union and that she would ensure that any peace agreement with Russia would be brokered on Ukraine’s terms.
“Those who support Ukraine militarily are working for peace,” Ms. Meloni said Tuesday evening, during a joint news conference with Mr. Zelensky.
Supplying military planes to Ukraine was “not on the table,” but Italy was considering sending more air defense systems, she added.
Ms. Meloni said that her coalition government, which has been in power since October, had remained “compact” in its support of Ukraine “despite some declarations” — a pointed reference to comments made recently by one of her allies, the former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi.
Last week, Mr. Berlusconi, a longtime friend of President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, blamed Mr. Zelensky for the invasion of Ukraine, saying he should have stopped attacking the contested Donbas region, playing into Mr. Putin’s false pretext of invading Ukraine to stop a genocide against ethnic Russians.
The State of the War
- Biden Visits Kyiv: President Biden traveled covertly to the besieged Ukrainian capital, hoping to demonstrate American resolve and boost shellshocked Ukrainians. But the trip was also the first of several direct challenges to President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia.
- Nuclear Treaty: Mr. Putin announced that Russia would suspend its participation in the New START nuclear arms control treaty — the last major such agreement remaining with the United States.
- In the North: A different sort of war game is playing out in northern Ukraine, where Russian shelling is tying up thousands of Ukrainian troops that might otherwise defend against attacks farther south.
- Portending a Global Rift: Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken said that China is strongly considering giving military aid to Russia, a move that would transform the war into a struggle involving three superpowers.
Another of Ms. Meloni’s allies, Matteo Salvini, built part of his populist career out of opposing sanctions on Russia and once said he preferred Mr. Putin to his own president.
Mr. Zelensky, addressing Mr. Berlusconi’s criticism at the news conference on Tuesday, said the former prime minister never had to deal with tanks arriving in his backyard or Russian airstrikes bombarding his home.
“I think Mr. Berlusconi has not had to get up at three in the morning because of blackouts to start washing clothes, making food for his children two days in advance because there may not be power for the next two, three days, because of the great love of the brotherly Russian people,” he said, according to Reuters.
Condemning the Russian invasion, Ms. Meloni said on Tuesday that “the fate of the European Union and Western democracies also depends on Ukraine’s victory in the face of those who want to trample international law by force.”
The only peace possible would be one agreed to by Ukraine, she said, and could not involve Ukrainian surrender — just as “a victory of Russia would not be peace” but “a prelude to the possible invasion of other European states.”
“Ukraine’s interests coincide with those of Europe,” she said.
Ms. Meloni arrived in Kyiv by train earlier on Tuesday, traveling from Poland, where she had met with Polish officials and reiterated Italy’s unwavering support for Ukraine.
It was the first time in Kyiv for Ms. Meloni, a hard-right leader who so far has governed in a far less vitriolic and ideological — and more practical — way than her detractors had predicted after she took office in October.
Ms. Meloni also said that Italy was planning to host an international conference in April on the reconstruction of Ukraine.
“Rebuilding a destroyed building is a sign of hope,” she said. “And because speaking of Ukraine’s reconstruction means betting on the victory of Ukraine. ”
Before meeting with Mr. Zelensky, Ms. Meloni visited Bucha — a suburb of Kyiv where retreating Russian soldiers massacred civilians in the early weeks of the war — and Irpin, one of the first Ukrainian cities to be destroyed and liberated. In Irpin, she distributed aid to civilians and signed a Ukrainian flag with the words, “At your side.”