Draghi defends arms shipments to Ukraine, calls for unity

Rome, Jun 22 (EFE).- Italian prime minister Mario Draghi defended his government’s policy on providing weapons to Ukraine before the Chamber of Deputies on Wednesday, a day after setting out his position to the Senate ahead of European Council and Nato summits this month.

The issue has caused a rift within the Five-Star Movement (MS5), which had been the largest party in the ruling coalition until its former leader and Italy’s current foreign minister Luigi Di Maio and 60 other deputies left the formation on Tuesday over the issue.

Di Maio, who has created a new rival party “Insieme per il futuro” (‘Together for the future’), rejected MS5 president Giuseppe Conte’s “ambiguous” – and ultimately unsuccessful – proposal, under which the country could refuse to send more military equipment to Kyiv in preference for a diplomatic solution to the war in Ukraine.

Following Draghi’s address on Wednesday, however, the remaining party members, led by former Italian prime minister Conte, and the majority of parliamentarians, voted in favor of a resolution that sets out Italy’s stance in favor of continued support for Ukraine.

The resolution, approved by the Lower House by 410 votes in favor to 29 against, stipulates that any decision related to the war in Ukraine – including the shipment of weapons – must first be approved by parliament.

“This request does not weaken the government, but rather strengthens it,” the M5S spokesman in the Chamber, Davide Crippa, said Wednesday.

The rift means MS5 – which won more than 30% of the vote in 2018’s general elections – has lost half its seats in the Chamber of Deputies, with the far-right Liga party led by Matteo Salvini the major beneficiary as it is now the largest group in parliament.

Faced with an even more fragmented Chamber of Deputies, the prime minister on Wednesday called for “unity” in the face of the difficult decisions that will have to be taken on Ukraine.

The Kremlin, Draghi said, is to blame for the economic, energy, social and food crises that have resulted from the conflict, not the EU or the West.

“Unity is essential at this time because the decisions we have to make are very difficult,” he warned.

His words received resounding applause from his supporters, but also sparked criticism from his opponents, like deputies in the “Alternativa C’è” party, another split of the M5S, who held up “No to war” or “Stop sending arms” signs. EFE


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