Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has arrived in Italy for his visit. The politician landed at Rome-Ciampino airport on Saturday morning. There he was received by Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani, as he confirmed on Twitter and posted a photo of himself and Zelensky. Afterwards, the Ukrainian president drove a large convoy of cars into the city center.
Political correspondent for Italy, the Vatican, Albania and Malta, based in Rome.
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Meetings with President Sergio Mattarella, Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni and Pope Francis are on the agenda during the day, as Zelensky himself tweeted. He wrote of an "important visit to achieve Ukraine's victory."
"Peace comes from Rome"
According to the front pages of Italian newspapers on Saturday morning, the purpose of Volodymyr Zelensky's trip to Italy was clear even before his arrival. "Peace comes from Rome," was the slogan of "Il Tempo". The "Messaggero" announced: "Zelensky for peace in Rome." Perhaps more appropriate, because it is descriptive instead of declamatory, is the headline of the "Libero": "The Vatican and Italy are working for peace".
It remains to be seen whether peace has actually come closer after the apparent start of the Ukrainian spring offensive to liberate the territories occupied by Russian forces in the east of the country. In any case, on his recent trips abroad – most recently to the Netherlands and Norway – the Ukrainian president spoke more of arms deliveries than of peace initiatives.
It will be no different in Rome, Zelensky's advisor Mykhailo Podolyak confirmed in an interview with the "Corriere della Sera" on Saturday. Today, Ukraine primarily needs "long-range missiles, fighter-bombers, large quantities of ammunition and air defense systems," Podolyak said. Commenting on the Vatican's ominous peace initiative, which Pope Francis spoke of on his return from Hungary on April 30, Podolyak said that instead of "mechanically talking about negotiations," it would be appropriate to highlight the "complete withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukrainian territory as a necessary starting point for negotiations." After all, Podolyak welcomed the Vatican's mediation efforts in humanitarian matters, prisoner exchanges, as well as the attempt to return children and abducted adults deported to Russia to their Ukrainian homeland.
Military equipment worth around 660 million euros
Kiev's relations with Rome have been considered very good since the beginning of the Russian invasion in February 2022. Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, who has led a centre-right coalition with Transport Minister Matteo Salvini's right-wing nationalist Lega and Silvio Berlusconi's Christian Democrat Forza Italia since October 2022, has continued the clearly pro-Ukrainian course of her predecessor Mario Draghi and his broad coalition.
According to Italian media reports, Rome has delivered weapons and military equipment worth around 660 million euros to Ukraine since the beginning of the war, as well as 300 million euros in financial support and 60 million euros in humanitarian aid. For weeks, Ukrainian soldiers have been trained at the Pratica di Mare military airport near Rome on the modern Italian-French air defense system SAMP/T, the delivery of which to Kyiv is scheduled to begin this summer. What military supplies Italy has delivered to Ukraine so far is kept secret by Rome for reasons of national security. It is said that the delivery of the SAMP/T system represents a kind of quantum leap for Italian military support for Ukraine.