KYIV: Italy will keep supporting Ukraine in resisting Russian attacks but has no plans to offer fighter jets, Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni said on Tuesday (Feb 21) during a visit to Kyiv.
The Italian leader, on her first trip to Ukraine since Russia’s invasion a year ago, has been a staunch supporter of Kyiv, but others in her right-wing coalition have been more ambiguous on the issue.
“At the moment the supply of planes is not on the table,” Meloni said at a news conference alongside Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
She was responding to a question about a report by Italian daily La Repubblica that suggested Rome could supply five AMX bomber jets.
Surveys have shown that a majority of Italians oppose sending arms to Ukraine and would rather achieve peace by making concessions to Russia – an option Meloni has firmly ruled out.
Former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, an old friend of Russian President Vladimir Putin, said this month that he would not want to meet with Zelenskiy and blamed him for the war.
On Tuesday Zelenskyy brushed off Berlusconi’s comments, saying the 86-year-old media tycoon had not had to live under daily bombardment and blackouts caused by Russian air strikes.
Meloni stressed Italy would continue to offer its support, saying Ukraine’s defeat “could pave the way for the possible invasion of other European states.”
In reference to Berlusconi, she said her coalition had been firm in supporting Ukraine with “facts” and votes in parliament, regardless of individual remarks by politicians.
While dismissing the idea of supplying planes to Kyiv, she said Italy was considering sending more air defence systems beyond the SAMP/T-MAMBA, which it is shortly expected to deliver in cooperation with France.