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Italy PM hails 'heroic resistance' of Ukraine people

Italy "does not intend to look the other way", says Draghi.

Italy's premier Mario Draghi told the Italian senate on Tuesday that Russia's invasion of Ukraine "marks a turning point in European history".

Draghi said that in recent decades many "were under the illusion" that Europe would no longer be faced with war and that peace and security could be taken for granted thanks to the "enormous sacrifices" of preceding generations.

However, "the images that come to us from Kyiv, Kharkiv, Maripol and other cities in Ukraine fighting for Europe's freedom mark the end of these illusions", Draghi told the senate.

"The heroic resistance of the Ukrainian people, of their president Zelenskyy, confronts us with a new reality and forces us to make choices that were unthinkable just a few months ago," the premier said.

Reiterating Italy's solidarity with Ukraine, the prime minister expressed his closeness to the 236,000 Ukrainian people resident in Italy, who are going through a "dramatic" time over the fate of their loved ones.

"Italy is grateful to you for the contribution you make every day to the life of our country" - Draghi said - "We are at your side."

Condemning Russia's "premeditated and unjustified aggression" against Ukraine, Draghi said it is "not just an attack on a free and sovereign country, but an attack on our values of freedom and democracy."

He described the decision by Russian president Vladimir Putin to put his country's nuclear forces on high alert as "extreme blackmail" that requires a “rapid, firm, united reaction".

Draghi said that further sanctions against Russia could be on the way, including intensifying pressure on Moscow's central bank and introducing measures to target the assets of oligarchs.

However he stressed that it was "essential to keep the path to dialogue with Moscow open", as well as noting: "While we condemn Putin's position, we must remember that this is not a confrontation with the nation and its citizens, many of whom do not approve of their government's actions."

He said that there are about 2,300 Italians in Ukraine, of which more than 1,600 are residents. Repeating the advice from the foreign ministry, the premier urged Italians in Kyiv to leave the city using whatever means are still available, including trains, while there is no curfew in place.

The prime minister paid particular thanks to Italy's ambassador to Ukraine, Pier Francesco Zazo, and to the embassy staff for "the spirit of service, dedication and courage shown in these dramatic days."

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