Italy lawmakers call off vote on extending Ukraine arms supplies

Local residents help police and war crimes investigators exhume the body of a 15-year-old girl, who local residents said had been executed by Russian forces, in the liberated village of Pravdyne, on Nov 29, 2022. PHOTO: NYTIMES

ROME - Italy’s ruling rightist parties on Tuesday withdrew an amendment that would have allowed the government to continue sending weapons to Ukraine throughout 2023, a parliamentary source said, after the opposition called for a separate decree on the issue.

In the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, former Prime Minister Mario Draghi’s administration introduced measures that made it possible to send weapons to Kyiv without seeking parliamentary authorisation for each shipment.

This arrangement expires at the end of the year, and the coalition backing Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni initially tried to extend it until Dec 31, 2023, by amending a government decree currently going through parliament.

However the main opposition group - the centre-left Democratic Party (PD) - complained that the decree in question was not specifically related to Ukraine and accused the government of bending parliamentary rules.

In reaction, Minister for Parliamentary Relations Luca Ciriani said the government would consider pushing through the measure via a separate decree, while still ensuring its speedy approval.

Support for Ukraine has been a contentious topic within the ruling coalition, which includes Ms Meloni’s Brothers of Italy, Mr Matteo Salvini’s League and Mr Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia parties.

Ms Meloni is a staunch supporter of Kyiv, while her allies Mr Salvini and Mr Berlusconi have been much more ambiguous due to their historical ties with Russia and President Vladimir Putin.

“It is worth supporting Ukraine because negotiations can only emerge from a balance of power on the field,” Ms Meloni said on Tuesday in an interview with daily Corriere della Sera.

Earlier this month, a governing coalition official told Reuters that Italy was readying a sixth arms package for Ukraine, including air defence systems Kyiv had requested.

In an interview last week, Defence Minister Guido Crosetto pledged to continue supplying arms in the times and ways agreed with the Nato allies and the government in Kyiv.

The PD is also a supporter of Ukraine, while other leftist opposition forces want the government to shift focus from sending arms to stepping up diplomatic negotiations. REUTERS

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