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Italy's Georgia Meloni says Ukraine can count on her 'loyal support'

Italy's presumed new Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni has assured Ukraine that it will continue to support its war effort against Vladimir Putin

Italy’s presumed new prime minister, Giorgia Meloni, has assured Ukraine that it will continue to support its war effort against Vladimir Putin.

Volodymyr Zelensky has tweeted a message of congratulations to the far-right Brethren of Italy leader, who won the largest share of votes in Sunday’s election and is set to be named the country’s first-ever female leader.

Zelensky said in Italian: “We appreciate Italy’s continued support for Ukraine in the fight against Russian aggression.

“We count on a productive partnership with the new Italian government.”

Meloni, who congratulated Putin on his election victory in 2018 and forms a coalition with Matteo Salvini and Silvio Berlusconi who have praised the Russian leader even throughout the war, assured voters she would support Ukraine .

Italy's presumed new Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni has assured Ukraine that it will continue to support its war effort against Vladimir Putin

Italy’s presumed new Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni has assured Ukraine that it will continue to support its war effort against Vladimir Putin

Volodymyr Zelensky tweeted a message of congratulations to the leader of the Brotherhood of Italy

Volodymyr Zelensky tweeted a message of congratulations to the leader of the Brotherhood of Italy

She replied: “You know that you can count on our faithful support for the cause of the freedom of the Ukrainian people. Stay strong and keep your faith unwavering!’

Outgoing Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi has been one of the strongest supporters of EU sanctions against Russia over Ukraine, despite his country’s dependence on Russian gas.

Rome also sent weapons to help Kyiv fight President Vladimir Putin’s forces.

Meloni is Eurosceptic but backed Draghi’s line on Ukraine and backs supplying arms so Kyiv can defend itself.

Last week, his coalition partner Berlusconi sparked fury when he claimed Putin had been “pushed” to invade Ukraine and only wanted to put “honest people” in charge of Kyiv.

The Italian leader and former prime minister, whose Forza Italia party is the minor partner in the tripartite union, is a longtime friend of Putin and his comments are likely to alarm Western allies now that he is back in government .

Zelensky said in Italian:

Zelensky said in Italian: “We appreciate Italy’s continued support for Ukraine in the fight against Russian aggression.”

“Putin was pushed by the Russian people, by his party, by his ministers to come up with this special operation,” Berlusconi told Italian state television RAI on Thursday evening, using the official Russian wording of war.

Russia’s plan was originally to conquer Kyiv “in one week”, replace the democratically elected Zelensky with “a government of decent people” and exit “in another week”, he said.

“I didn’t even understand why Russian troops scattered around Ukraine when in my mind they should have stayed only in Kyiv,” said Berlusconi, 85, who once described Putin like a younger brother.

Facing widespread condemnation from his opponents for his words, Berlusconi released a statement on Friday saying his views had been “oversimplified”.

“Aggression against Ukraine is unjustifiable and unacceptable”, the position (of Forza Italia) is clear. We will always be with the EU and NATO,” he said.

Reaction to Sunday’s strong result for Meloni’s Italian Brothers party was drowned out by stalwarts of European integration like Paris and Berlin, but right-wingers in Warsaw and Budapest offered hearty congratulations.

Silvio Berlusconi sparked fury by claiming Vladimir Putin was

Silvio Berlusconi sparked fury by claiming Vladimir Putin was ‘pushed’ into invading Ukraine

The Italian leader and former prime minister is a longtime friend of Putin and his comments are likely to alarm Western allies (pictured in 2015)

The Italian leader and former prime minister is a longtime friend of Putin and his comments are likely to alarm Western allies (pictured in 2015)

“We have never needed friends with a common vision and approach to Europe so much,” the Hungarian government said, while Poland hailed Meloni’s “great victory”.

“Hungary and Poland are more than happy with this election, firstly because it relieves pressure on their own countries within the EU, and secondly because it paves the way for a more united front” , said Yordan Bozhilov, director of the Bulgaria-based organization. Sofia Security Forum Think Tank.

The Italian election follows a Swedish poll that also produced a far-right surge.

But with the far right in power in one of the largest countries and founding members of the EU, Hungary and Poland could be far less isolated in their battles with Brussels over rule of law issues.

Moreover, Rome, Budapest and Warsaw are now ready to align themselves on social concerns, with anti-Islam, anti-abortion and anti-LGBT positions.

“Together we will defeat the cynical and pampered Eurocrats who are destroying the European Union, breaking treaties, destroying our civilization and advancing the LGBT agenda!” Polish Deputy Agriculture Minister Janusz Kowalski tweeted in a message congratulating Meloni on Monday.

Meloni also shares his future allies’ vision of a Christian, white Europe made up of sovereign nations.

“Hungary and Poland are countries that want to change the EU from within, and they don’t hide it. So far they have not succeeded, but there will certainly be an attempt to create a Rome-Budapest-Warsaw axis,” said Tara Varma, director of the Paris office of the European Council on Foreign Relations.

But demands from these parties have already moderated in recent years since full exit from the EU, “given the stark warning Brexit has been on”, she added.

Instead, the axis could become ‘spoilers, the sand in the gears’ in Brussels.

“One step forward, two steps back, they could prevent the EU from progressing while still benefiting from common funds,” Varma said.

A Ukrainian freight station in Kharkiv is reduced to rubble by Russian shelling today

A Ukrainian freight station in Kharkiv is reduced to rubble by Russian shelling today

A values-based front could still crumble in the face of the current overriding concern over the war in Ukraine and the EU’s relationship with Russia.

While Meloni has so far matched Warsaw in statements of support for Ukraine and EU sanctions against Russia for its invasion of its neighbour, Hungarian leader Viktor Orban – close to President Vladimir Putin – has oppose it.

“At some point, Meloni will have to choose between Poland and Hungary,” Varma predicted.

The Brethren from Italy leader is not expected to change her stance to match that of her junior coalition partners.

“As far as foreign policy is concerned, as far as we know, Meloni supports the sanctions against Russia and the Brothers in Italy are closer to the Polish PiS than to the Hungarian Fidesz,” said Hungarian analyst Patrik Szicherle.

Meloni “sent the right messages about Ukraine,” said Martin Quencez of the German Marshall Fund, pointing to Italy’s critical relationship with the United States as a reliable NATO ally.

Once elected Prime Minister, she “has every interest in maintaining good relations with Brussels, not in entering into a pitched battle”, declared Paolo Modugno, professor of Italian civilization at Sciences Po Paris.

Meloni ‘is very aware of the problems of the Italian public, their fear of inflation and the economic situation. The urgent thing for her is to manage the crisis, not to take ideological risks,” he added.

Analysts suggest that the new government’s choice of key ministers, particularly in the finance and foreign ministries, will make it clear how Meloni plans to position itself in Europe.

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