The invasion of Ukraine by Russia marks a turning point in European history. In recent decades, many had deluded themselves that war would no longer find a place in Europe.
That the horrors that had characterized the twentieth century were unrepeatable monstrosities.
That the economic and political integration that we had pursued with the creation of the European Union protected us from violence.
That the multilateral institutions created after the Second World War were meant to protect us forever.
In other words, that we could take for granted the achievements of peace, security, and well-being that the generations that preceded us had achieved with enormous sacrifices.
The images that come to us from Kiev, Kharkiv, Maripol and other cities of Ukraine fighting for Europe's freedom mark the end of these illusions.
The heroic resistance of the Ukrainian people, of their President Zelensky, put a new reality in front of us and force us to make choices that were unthinkable until a few months ago.
I want to reiterate, once again, all my solidarity, that of the Government and of the Italians to President Zelensky, to the Ukrainian Government and to all citizens of Ukraine.
I also want to express my closeness to the 236 thousand people of Ukrainian nationality present in Italy who are experiencing dramatic days for the fate of their loved ones.
Italy is grateful to you for the contribution you make every day to the life of our country.
We stand by your side - in the pain we feel in the face of war, in our attachment to peace and in our shared determination to help Ukraine defend itself. The aggression - premeditated and unmotivated - of Russia towards a neighboring country takes us back over eighty years, to the annexation of Austria, the occupation of Czechoslovakia and the invasion of Poland. It is not just an attack on a free and sovereign country, but an attack on our values of freedom and democracy and on the international order that we have built together. As historian Robert Kagan observed, the jungle of history is back, and its vines want to envelop the garden of peace in which we were convinced we lived. Now it's up to us all to decide how to react. Italy does not intend to turn the other way.
President Putin's revanchist design is revealed today with clear outlines, in his words and deeds. In 2014, Russia annexed Crimea in an illegal referendum, and began to financially and militarily support the separatist forces in the Donbass.
Last week, he recognized - in total disregard of Ukrainian sovereignty and international law - the two so-called republics of Donetsk and Lugansk.
Soon after, following weeks of disinformation, he invaded Ukraine under the pretext of a "special military operation". The threats of making those who dare to be an obstacle to the invasion of Ukraine pay with "consequences never experienced before", and the extreme blackmail of the use of nuclear weapons, require us to react rapidly, firmly and unitedly.
To tolerate a war of aggression against a European sovereign state would mean putting at risk, perhaps irreversibly, peace and security in Europe.
We cannot let this happen.
While we condemn Putin's position, we must remember that this is not a confrontation with the nation and its citizens - many of whom do not approve of their government's actions.
Since the invasion began, some 6,000 people have been arrested for demonstrating against the invasion of Ukraine - 2,700 on Sunday alone. I admire the courage of those who take part in it. The Kremlin should listen to these voices and abandon its war plans. So far, Moscow's plans for a rapid invasion and conquest of large swathes of Ukrainian territory in a few days have seemed to fail thanks to the courageous opposition of the Ukrainian army and people and the unity demonstrated by the European Union and Ukraine's allies.
The Russian troops continue their advance to take possession of the main cities. A long column of military vehicles is on the outskirts of Kiev, where missile raids and explosions were recorded during the night, including destruction in residential areas.
Civilian casualties from this conflict are increasing now that the attack, after targeting military installations, has moved to urban centers.
In the face of the strengthening of defensive measures on NATO's eastern flank, President Putin has put the Russian deterrence forces on alert, including the nuclear defensive deterrant.
It is a serious gesture which, however, demonstrates how effective the resistance of the Ukrainians and the sanctions inflicted on Russia are.
Another worrying signal comes from neighboring Belarus, whose citizens on Sunday voted in favor of some significant changes to the Constitution and eliminated the status of a "nuclear-free" country.
This could imply a willingness to deploy nuclear weapons from other countries on their soil.
In Ukraine there are about 2,300 of our compatriots, of which over 1,600 are residents. Since February 12, the Farnesina has recommended Italians present in the country leave Ukraine by whatever commercial means available.
As of February 24, following the attacks by the Russian side, the warning has changed.
To our compatriots still present in the Ukrainian capital and its surroundings, we recommended that they use the means still available, including trains, to leave the city, during the times when there is no curfew.
There is no curfew in these hours, but the situation could change as a result of the progress of military operations. We recommend the utmost caution.
The staff of the Embassy in Kiev moved from the Embassy to the Ambassador's Residence together with a group of compatriots, including minors and babies.
87 people were concentrated in the residence, of which 72 will leave today.
I want to thank the Ambassador to Ukraine, Pier Francesco Zazo and the staff of the Embassy for the spirit of service, dedication and courage shown in these dramatic days.
The Crisis Unit maintains regular telephone contact with our compatriots in Ukraine and with their respective family members in Italy.
I also want to thank Minister Di Maio and the diplomats of the Farnesina for their tireless work in support of our citizens.
Italy is at the forefront of supporting Ukraine from a humanitarian and migration point of view, in close coordination with its European and international partners.
The humanitarian situation in the country is increasingly serious.
The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs has estimated the number of people who could be in need of humanitarian aid in the coming months at 18 million.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimates that internally displaced people could reach numbers between 6 and 7.5 million and refugees between 3 and 4 million. There are an estimated 400,000 people who have left Ukraine, mainly in the direction of neighboring countries.
Italy has already contributed significantly to the emergency with a loan of 110 million euros in favor of Kiev as support for the general state budget.
We made an initial contribution worth one million euros to the International Committee of the Red Cross, donated over 4 tons of medical supplies, and offered 200 family tents and 1,000 cots. We plan to dispatch goods for assistance to the population, dispatch drugs and health devices, and deploy field health assets.
I want to thank the Italian Red Cross, the Civil Protection and all the volunteers for their constant commitment in favor of the weakest.
Italy is ready to do more, both through the main humanitarian organizations active in the area, and with material donations.
In yesterday's Council of Ministers we allocated 10 million euros, from the Fund for National Emergencies, to ensure relief and assistance to the Ukrainian population.
To do this, a state of humanitarian emergency was declared, which will last until 31 December and which has the sole purpose of ensuring maximum aid from Italy to Ukraine.
It is a commitment of solidarity, which will have no consequences for Italians, and which does not change the decision to end the state of emergency for Covid-19 on 31 March.
As for refugees, as announced by Ministers Di Maio and Bonetti, we are committed to activating special corridors for orphaned minors, so that they can reach our country as quickly and safely as possible.
On Sunday, in the extraordinary Council of Interior Ministers of the European Union, the possibility, which Italy supports, of applying for the first time the directive on temporary protection envisaged in the event of a massive influx of displaced persons was evaluated.
This Directive would guarantee Ukrainians on the run to stay in the European Union for a renewable period of one year and would avoid having to activate costly asylum procedures after 90 days of stay without a visa. The Directive would also lead Member States to indicate their reception capacity and to cooperate with each other for the transfer of residence of persons from one State to another.
The Ministry of the Interior is working on the preparation of specific rules on the reception of Ukrainian displaced persons in national structures.
We will do our part, unreservedly, to ensure maximum solidarity.
We have already established a dialogue with the competent United Nations Agencies to identify the priorities for intervention and proceed with the development of assistance projects for refugees in the countries neighboring Ukraine. We intend to make it easier to process applications for international protection as they are presented.
Following the intensification of the Russian offensive, we have adopted an increasingly harsh and punitive response to Moscow.
On the military front, the Supreme Allied Commander in Europe has issued the activation order for all 5 phased response plans that I outlined last week.
This allows the first part of the plans to be implemented directly and to increase the deterrence posture on the eastern border of the Alliance with the forces already available.
I refer to the passage of the unit currently deployed in Latvia, to which Italy contributes 239 units. As for the naval forces, they are already underway and under NATO command.
Our air forces deployed in Romania will be doubled in order to guarantee continuous coverage, together with the allied assets.
Additional forces already offered by the individual Member States to the Alliance are in a state of pre-alert: Italy is ready with a first group of 1,400 soldiers and a second of 2,000 units.
I thank Minister Guerini and all the armed forces for their commitment and their preparation. After the central role you played during the pandemic, Italy is once again grateful to you.
Italy responded to President Zelensky's call for military equipment, armaments and vehicles to protect itself from Russian aggression.
The democratically elected government must be able to resist the invasion and defend the country's independence.
To a people that defends itself from a military attack and asks our democracies for help, it is not possible to respond only with encouragement and acts of deterrence.
This is the position of Italy, of the European Union, and of our allies.
This convergence is also the result of intense diplomatic activity.
On Friday I took part in a summit of NATO Heads of State and Government in which I reiterated that Italy is ready to do its part and make the necessary forces available.
The next day, I had a telephone conversation with Ukrainian President Zelensky, to whom I confirmed Italy's full support.
I anticipated our intention to help Ukraine defend itself against Russia and reiterated our firm support for the EU position on sanctions.
On Monday afternoon, I participated in a videoconference with the leaders of the G7, Poland, Romania, the Presidents of the European Commission and the European Council and with the Secretary General of NATO.
In these meetings, the European Union and its allies have shown great firmness and unity. We have swiftly adopted unprecedented sanctions, affecting a great many sectors and an important number of entities and individuals, including President Putin and Minister Lavrov.
Financially, the restrictive measures adopted will prevent the Russian Central Bank from using its international reserves to reduce the impact of our restrictive measures.
Within the EU, measures are underway to remove some Russian banks from the SWIFT system. This package has already inflicted very high costs on Moscow. On Monday alone, the ruble lost about 30% of its value against the dollar.
The Moscow Stock Exchange has been closed since yesterday and the Russian Central Bank has more than doubled interest rates, from 9.5% to 20%, to try to limit the risk of capital flight. We are also approving strong restrictive measures against Belarus, given its growing involvement in the conflict.
Russia has also suffered a very severe sports boycott, with the cancellation of all competitions with Russian teams in every discipline.
Italy is ready for further restrictive measures, should they be necessary.
In particular, I proposed to take further targeted measures against the oligarchs. The hypothesis is to create a public international register of those with assets exceeding 10 million euros. I then proposed to further intensify the pressure on the Russian Central Bank and to ask the Bank for International Settlements, which is based in Switzerland, to participate in the sanctions.
At the same time, it is essential to keep the path of dialogue with Moscow open.
Yesterday, Russian and Ukrainian delegations met in Belarus, on the border with Ukraine. We hope for the success of this negotiation, even as we are realistic about its prospects.
To Italian citizens, who are worried about the consequences of this conflict, I want to say that the government is working incessantly to counteract the possible repercussions for the country. The Ministry of the Interior has issued directives on supervisory measures to protect sensitive objectives.
For aspects related to refugee security checks, the Government has activated all national and international coordination mechanisms to monitor potential threats.
The deterioration of relations between Russia and the European Union and NATO has made Moscow's posture towards the West even more aggressive in the cyber and disinformation sphere. In fact, Russia has intensified its hostile activities towards the countries of the European Union and NATO, with the aim of undermining our cohesion and response capacity.
A special Cybersecurity Nucleus was activated to share the information collected and a permanent table dedicated to the current crisis was set up within it.
I want to thank the Minister of the Interior Lamorgese, Undersecretary Gabrielli and all the police forces for their work in defense of citizens.
The government is also working to mitigate the impact of any energy supply problems.
There are currently no signs of an interruption in gas supplies. However, it is important to assess any eventuality, given the risk of retaliation and a possible further tightening of sanctions.
Italy imports about 95% of the gas it consumes and over 40% comes from Russia. In the short term, even a complete shutdown of gas flows from Russia starting next week should not pose a problem.
Italy still has 2.5 billion cubic meters of gas in storage and the arrival of milder temperatures should lead to a significant reduction in consumption by households.
Our forecast is that we will be able to absorb any peak demand through volumes in storage and other import capacity.
However, in the absence of supplies from Russia, the situation for the coming winters risks becoming more complicated.
The government is studying a series of measures to reduce Italy's dependence on Russia.
I want to thank Minister Cingolani for the great work he is doing on this issue.
The options under consideration, perfectly compatible with our climate objectives, concern first of all the increase of gas imports from other suppliers - such as Algeria or Azerbaijan; greater use of available liquid natural gas terminals; any temporary increases in coal or oil-fired thermoelectric production, which in any case would not include the opening of new plants.
If necessary, greater flexibility should be adopted on gas consumption, in particular in the industrial and thermoelectric sectors.
The diversification of energy supply sources is an objective to be pursued regardless of what will happen to Russian gas supplies in the immediate future.
We cannot be so dependent on the decisions of a single country.
Our freedom is also at stake, not just our prosperity.
For this, we must first of all aim for a decisive increase in the production of renewable energy - as we do in the context of the “Next Generation EU” program.
We must continue to simplify the procedures for onshore and offshore projects - as we are already doing - and invest in the development of biomethane.
Gas remains a useful transition fuel.
We need to think about an increase in our regasification capacity and a possible doubling of the capacity of the TAP pipeline.
Europe has shown enormous determination in supporting the Ukrainian people. In doing so, it has made decisions unprecedented in its history - such as buying and supplying weapons to a country at war.
As has happened at other times in European history, the Union has accelerated its path of integration in the face of a crisis.
It is now essential that the lessons of this emergency are not wasted.
In particular, it is necessary to proceed quickly on the path of common defense, in order to acquire true strategic autonomy, which is complementary to the Atlantic Alliance.
The threat brought by Russia today is a push to invest more in defense than we have done so far. We can choose whether to do it at national or European level.
My hope is that all countries will choose to increasingly adopt a common approach.
An investment in European defense is also a commitment to be allies.
The extraordinary influx of refugees, which has already begun to arrive from Ukraine, then forces us to review the immigration policies we have set ourselves as the European Union.
In the past, the Union has been short-sighted in applying outdated regulations, such as the one in Dublin, instead of adopting a truly solidarity-based approach.
Italy is ready to do its part to host those fleeing the war, and to help them integrate into society. The European values of hospitality and brotherhood must always be valid.
In the event of disruptions in gas supplies from Russia, Italy would have more to lose than other European countries that rely on different sources.
This does not diminish our determination to support sanctions that we believe are justified and necessary.
However, it is important to move in the direction of a common approach to gas storage and procurement.
Doing so would allow us to obtain lower prices from producing countries and to insure each other in the event of isolated shocks.
The war will have consequences on the price of energy, which we will have to tackle with new measures to support businesses and families.
The European Union should facilitate them, to avoid excessive repercussions on the recovery.
In the long run, this crisis reminds us of the importance of having a truly strategic and long-term vision when discussing new fiscal rules in Europe.
In December, together with the French President Macron, we proposed to encourage investments with the new rules in areas of greatest importance for the future of Europe, such as security or environmental protection.
The exact design of these rules must be discussed with all Member States. However, this crisis reinforces the need to write rules compatible with the ambitions we have for Europe.
The invasion by Russia is not just about Ukraine. It is an attack on our conception of relations between states based on rules and rights. We cannot let Europe go back to a system where borders are drawn by force and where war is an acceptable way to expand your area of influence.
Respect for democratic sovereignty is a prerequisite for a lasting peace.
And it is at the heart of the Italian people who, as Alcide De Gasperi said, are ready to associate their work with that of other countries, "to build a more just and more human world".
The struggle we support today, the sacrifices we will make tomorrow are a defense of our principles and our future.
And that is why I ask Parliament for its support.