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

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

Volodymyr Zelensky tweeted a congratulatory message to Italy’s far-right Brotherhood leader, who garnered the most votes in Sunday’s election and is about to be named the country’s first female leader.

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

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

Meloni, who congratulated Putin on his 2018 election victory and is forming a coalition with Matteo Salvini and Silvio Berlusconi, who have praised the Russian leader even during the war, assured voters that he will back Ukraine.

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

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

Volodymyr Zelensky tweeted a congratulatory message to the leader of the Brothers of Italy

Volodymyr Zelensky tweeted a congratulatory message to the leader of the Brothers of Italy

Volodymyr Zelensky tweeted a congratulatory message to the leader of the Brothers of Italy

She replied: ‘You know that you can count on our loyal support for the cause of the freedom of the Ukrainian people.

‘Stay strong and keep your faith firm!’

Outgoing Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi has been a leading proponent of EU sanctions against Russia over Ukraine, despite his country’s dependence on Russian gas.

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

Meloni is Eurosceptic, but has backed Draghi’s line on Ukraine and supports the supply of weapons so Kyiv can defend itself.

Last week, his coalition partner Berlusconi unleashed fury by claiming that Putin was “pushed” to invade Ukraine and only wants to put “decent people” in charge of Kyiv.

The Italian leader and former prime minister, whose Forza Italia party is the junior 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: “We appreciate Italy’s constant support for Ukraine in the fight against Russian aggression.”

“Putin was pressured by the Russian people, by his party, by his ministers to present this special operation,” Berlusconi told Italian public television RAI on Thursday night, using the official Russian wording for the war.

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

“I haven’t even understood why the Russian troops were scattered across Ukraine when, in my opinion, they should have stayed only in Kyiv,” said the 85-year-old Berlusconi, who once described Putin as a younger brother.

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

‘The aggression against Ukraine is unjustifiable and unacceptable, the position (of Forza Italia) is clear. We will always stand with the EU and NATO,’ he said.

Reaction to Sunday’s strong result for Meloni’s Brothers of Italy party was muted from EU integration pillars like Paris and Berlin, but right-wing Warsaw and Budapest were warm in their congratulations.

Silvio Berlusconi has unleashed fury by claiming that Vladimir Putin was 'pushed' to invade Ukraine

Silvio Berlusconi has unleashed fury by claiming that Vladimir Putin was 'pushed' to invade Ukraine

Silvio Berlusconi has unleashed fury by claiming that Vladimir Putin was ‘pushed’ to invade Ukraine

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

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

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

“We have never had a greater need for friends who share a common vision and approach to Europe,” the Hungarian government said, while praise poured in from Poland for Meloni’s “great victory.”

“Hungary and Poland are more than happy with this election, firstly because it relieves the pressure on their own countries in 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 Expert Group.

The Italian elections follow in the footsteps of a Swedish poll that also produced a rise of the far right.

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.

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

“Together we will defeat the cynical and spoiled Eurocrats who are destroying the European Union, violating treaties, destroying our civilization and promoting the LGBT agenda!” Poland’s deputy agriculture minister, Janusz Kowalski, tweeted a message congratulating Meloni on Monday.

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

‘Hungary and Poland are countries that want to change the EU from within and do not hide it. So far they have not been successful, but there will definitely 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 the demands of such parties have already moderated in recent years since leaving the EU outright, “given the stark warning that Brexit has been,” he added.

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

“One step forward, two steps back, could prevent the EU from progressing while continuing to benefit from joint funds,” Varma said.

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

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

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

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

While Meloni has so far matched Warsaw in statements of support for Ukraine and for EU sanctions on Russia over its neighbor’s invasion, Hungarian leader Viktor Orban, who is close to President Vladimir Putin, opposes it.

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

The leader of the Brothers of Italy is not expected to bend her position to match those of her junior coalition partners.

“Foreign policy-wise, as far as we know, Meloni supports sanctions against Russia and Brothers of Italy is closer to Poland’s PiS (ruling party) than Hungary’s Fidesz,” said Hungarian analyst Patrik Szicherle.

Meloni has “sent the right messages on Ukraine,” said Martin Quencez of the German Marshall Fund, noting Italy’s critical relationship with the US as a trusted NATO ally.

Once elected prime minister, “she has every incentive to have good relations with Brussels, not to enter into a pitched battle,” said Paolo Modugno, a professor of Italian civilization at Sciences Po University in Paris.

Meloni ‘is well aware of the problems of the Italian public, of their fear of inflation and the economic situation. What is urgent for her is to manage the crisis, not take ideological risks,’ she added.

Analysts suggest that the incoming government’s choice of top ministers, especially in the finance and foreign ministries, will clearly signal how Meloni plans to position himself in Europe.

.