Ukraine’s Zelensky in Rome for talks with Pope, Meloni

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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky arrived in Rome Saturday for meetings with Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni and Pope Francis in his first visit to Italy since Russia’s invasion.

“Today in Rome,” tweeted Zelensky, following his arrival at the military base of Rome’s Ciampino Airport shortly before 0830 GMT, where he was met by Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani. “I’m meeting with President of Italy Sergio Mattarella, Prime Minister of Italy Giorgia Meloni and the Pope. An important visit for approaching victory of Ukraine!”

Television images showed a long cortege of vehicles carrying the Ukrainian leader departing the airport, as security forces locked down large areas of the capital. As Zelensky arrived in Rome, Germany announced a 2.7 billion euro weapons package for Kyiv including tanks, armoured vehicles and air-defence systems. Despite a history of warm ties with Moscow, NATO and EU member Italy has sent weapons and money to help Kyiv since Russia invaded in February 2022, and backed Western sanctions against Russia.

Still, the issue of sending weapons to Kyiv remains politically sensitive in Italy and the government has never disclosed exactly what it has provided. Meloni, who visited Kyiv in February, hosted Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal in Rome last month, on the occasion of a conference on how Italian businesses could help rebuild the war-torn country.

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