ANSA – ROME – Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio said Wednesday that there was now a real risk of Russia staging a big military operation in Ukraine.
“(Russian President Vladimir) Putin said in a press conference that he recognised the claims of (the rebel-held territories of) Donetsk and Lugansk to the whole of the Donbass region, which goes well beyond the Russian-speaking segment and, therefore, would include areas currently under the control of the Ukraine armed forces, and also called for the recognition of the illegal annexation of Crimea” Di Maio told the Senate as he reported to parliament on the crisis. “This double development risks opening the road to a large-scale military operation by Russia in Ukraine”. He said Italy continued to be involved in diplomatic efforts to avert war, but admitted that the possibility of a solution were decreasing day by day. The minister said sanctions imposed on Russian should be proportionate and sustainable.
He also said more could be coming Russians’ way if they take further action. Italy will not hold any high-level bilateral meetings with Russia until there is a de-escalation of the Ukraine crisis, Di Maio told the Senate. Rome and Moscow had been working to arrange a meeting between Italian Premier Mario Draghi and Russian President Vladimir Putin before the latter recognized two rebel-held ‘republics’ in the east of Ukraine this week and sent in troops. “This morning we organized the next steps with take with Premier Draghi to aid a diplomatic solution,” Di Maio said. “We are engaged at the top multilateral channels of dialogue.
“However, we believe that there can be no bilateral meetings with the Russian leadership until there are tension-easing signals, a stance that has been adopted over the last few hours by our allies and European partners. “We condemn the decision by Moscow to sent a contingent of troops with so-called peace-keeping functions to the territories of the two separatist republics,” he added. “This is a gesture that risks exacerbating an already tense situation. “It is estimated that there are between 170,000 and 190,000 Russian soldiers along the border with Ukraine”.