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Ukraine: Italy ready to supply NATO with 3,400 soldiers

Draghi says EU finalising package of sanctions against Russia.

Italy is ready to supply an additional 3,400 troops to support NATO in its response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine, Italian premier Mario Draghi told parliament on Friday.

About 1,400 troops from the army, navy and air force are ready - with a further 2,000 military personnel available - to join the 240 Italian soldiers already deployed in NATO missions in eastern Europe, Draghi said.

"Our priority today must be to strengthen the security of our continent and apply maximum pressure on Russia to withdraw its troops and return to the negotiating table", he said, noting however that Russia's violent actions in Ukraine makes diplomatic dialogue "impossible".

Draghi told parliament that the EU is finalising a first package of "very stringent and incisive" sanctions against Russia, and that Italy is preparing a €110 million aid package for Ukraine.

The EU measures were "coordinated together with our G7 partners", Draghi said, stressing that Italy's position is in line with other EU nations, "first and foremost France and Germany".

"The images we see - of defenceless citizens forced to hide in bunkers and subways - are terrible and take us back to the darkest days of European history", he said, adding that there are "long lines of cars leaving Kyiv and other Ukrainian cities, especially towards the border with the EU."

Reiterating Italy's solidarity with the people of Ukraine, Draghi said: "The return of war in Europe cannot be tolerated".

"Italy strongly condemns the invasion, which we consider unacceptable" - the premier said - "The attack is a very serious violation of the sovereignty of a free and democratic state, of international treaties, and of the most fundamental European values".

Draghi said plans are underway for the "safe evacuation" of Italians in Ukraine and that Italy's embassy in Kyiv is "open and fully operational".

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