New Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni visited Ukraine Tuesday ahead of the first anniversary Russia’s brutal invasion — to tell President Volodymyr Zelensky that she wasn’t sending him warplanes.
Photos show the two leaders with stern expressions during a seemingly frosty exchange from opposite sides of a circular table.
“At the moment the supply of planes is not on the table,” Meloni, 46, said at a joint press conference following the meeting.
The right-wing leader flew to Kyiv on Tuesday just days after one of her predecessors, Silvio Berlusconi — and part of Italy’s ruling coalition — bluntly blamed Zelensky for the war with Russia.
However, Meloni maintained that Italy had and would continue supporting Ukraine — possibly with air-defense systems — in resisting Russian attacks, saying Ukraine’s defeat “could pave the way for the possible invasion of other European states.”
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.
Meloni arrived in Kyiv via train from Poland, and visited the war-battered towns of Bucha and Irpin on the outskirts of Kyiv before meeting with Zelenskiy, 46, in the capital.
In Bucha, Meloni was photographed in tears and covering her mouth in horror as she was shown a photo exhibition of dead civilians.
But her visit was overshadowed by the comments earlier this month by Berlusconi, the leader of the conservative Forza Italia party, part of the country’s ruling coalition.
The former prime minister — an old friend of Russian President Vladimir Putin — said he “would never have gone talking to Zelensky” because he blamed him for “the devastation of his country and the slaughter of its soldiers and civilians.”
“So I judge, very, very negatively, the behavior of this gentleman”, Berlusconi added of the former TV star and comedian leading Ukraine.
During her visit to Kyiv, Meloni downplayed Berlusconi’s comments, saying her coalition had been firm in supporting Ukraine with “facts” and votes in parliament, regardless of individual politicians’ remarks.
Zelensky earlier dismissed the former prime minister’s attack as being without merit.
“Mr. Berlusconi, it seems to me, has never had his house bombarded with missiles every day. And thank God his partner from the Russian Federation didn’t drive a tank into his house and destroy his relatives and close ones,” he said.
“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.
Berlusconi, he said, should also visit Ukraine to see with his own eyes the “bloody trail left by the brotherly Russian Federation.”
“Then we can talk at the same level,” the Ukrainian leader said.
With Post wires
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