As a new right-wing government takes office in Italy, its leaders are moving quickly to reaffirm support for Ukraine and dispel concerns that they could undercut Europe’s united front against Russia.
Antonio Tajani, the new foreign minister and a former president of the European Parliament, wrote on Twitter on Saturday that his “first phone call” on the job was to his Ukrainian counterpart, Dmytro Kuleba.
“I reaffirmed Italy’s full support to Ukraine in defense of freedom and against Russian invasion,” Mr. Tajani wrote. “There will be no peace without justice. And justice means Ukraine’s independence.”
Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, who was sworn in on Saturday as the leader of the most right-wing Italian government since World War II, has long expressed unwavering support for Ukraine. But questions have been raised over her coalition partners, including Silvio Berlusconi, the 86-year-old billionaire and former prime minister, who is a longtime personal friend of President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia.
Last week, leaked recordings emerged in which Mr. Berlusconi was heard blaming Ukraine for forcing Mr. Putin to invade, and boasting that the Russian leader had sent him 20 bottles of vodka “and a very kind letter” for his birthday last month. Mr. Berlusconi has not challenged the authenticity of the recordings.
Ms. Meloni’s other key coalition partner, Matteo Salvini of the anti-immigrant League party, once wore T-shirts with Mr. Putin’s face on them and has been so sympathetic toward Russia that he has had to reject accusations that he had taken money from Moscow.
But Ms. Meloni has sought to reinforce her support for Ukraine and the Western alliance against Russia’s invasion, saying last week: “Italy, with us in government, will never be the weak link of the West.”
Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, congratulated Ms. Meloni after she took office, saying on Twitter that he looked forward “to continued fruitful cooperation to ensure peace and prosperity in Ukraine, Italy and the world!”