Meloni visit comes after Berlusconi's criticism of Zelensky.
Italian prime minister Giorgia Meloni arrived in Kyiv on Tuesday morning to meet Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky after travelling there overnight by train from Poland.
"I think it's only right to be here to reiterate the position of the Italian government and perhaps also to realise personally what is needed by a people fighting for freedom", Meloni told reporters after arriving in Kyiv, according to Italian state broadcaster RAI News.
Meloni will visit Bucha and Irpin before meeting with Zelensky in the afternoon, reports news agency ANSA.
Her visit comes the day after US president Joe Biden made an historic trip to Kyiv for the first time since Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine almost a year ago.
Biden, who announced a new $500 million military aid package to Ukraine, telephoned Meloni on Monday evening after arriving in Poland from Kyiv.
The two leaders discussed their ongoing close coordination on support for Ukraine, including assistance on security, economic and humanitarian issues, according to a statement released by Palazzo Chigi.
Il Presidente @GiorgiaMeloni ha avuto un colloquio telefonico con il @POTUS Joe Biden. I due leader hanno discusso del loro stretto coordinamento in corso sul sostegno all'Ucraina, compresa l'assistenza in materia di sicurezza, economica e umanitaria pic.twitter.com/VprLd1ao2N
— Palazzo_Chigi (@Palazzo_Chigi) February 20, 2023
The White House subsequently issued a statement saying that Biden "cannot wait to welcome" Meloni in Washington, reports ANSA.
Meloni's visit to Kyiv comes amid friction over Ukraine in her right-wing government after coalition partner Silvio Berlusconi, leader of the centre-right Forza Italia party, said last week that if he were still prime minister he would never seek a meeting with Zelensky.
The former three-time Italian premier said that if Zelensky had ceased attacking the two separatist republics of the Donbass the war would not have happened, adding: "I judge, very, very negatively the behaviour of this gentleman."
Meloni's office promptly issued a statement underlining the Italian government's "firm and convinced" support for Ukraine.
Foreign minister Antonio Tajani, who is also Italy's deputy premier and a senior Forza Italia figure, stressed that his party "has always been in favour of the independence of Ukraine, on the side of Europe, NATO and the West."
Berlusconi's remarks on Ukraine led the European People's Party (EPP), of which Forza Italia is a member, to cancel an event in Naples in June.
The outburst by Berlusconi came a few days after Meloni criticised France and Germany after she was not invited to a dinner in Paris with Zelensky, whom she met subsequently on the sidelines of an EU summit in Brussels.
Last September a leaked audio recording surfaced of Berlusconi telling Forza Italia MPs that Zelensky had pushed Putin into an endless war by "tripling" attacks on the Donbass region.
On 11 February a letter from Zelensky was read on the stage of Italy's Sanremo Music Festival, in which he wrote: "Ukraine will definitely win this war. It will win together with the free world. It will win thanks to the voice of freedom, democracy and, of course, culture."
Photo credit: Alexandros Michailidis / Shutterstock.com
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