Italy's government 'open' to supplying Ukraine with air defense systems

Rome is ready to provide Ukraine with a variety of air-defense systems, an Italian coalition official said on Tuesday.

 Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni looks on, on the day of her first cabinet meeting, at Chigi Palace, in Rome, Italy, October 23, 2022 (photo credit: REUTERS/YARA NARDI)
Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni looks on, on the day of her first cabinet meeting, at Chigi Palace, in Rome, Italy, October 23, 2022
(photo credit: REUTERS/YARA NARDI)

The Italian government is readying a new arms package for Ukraine including air defense systems, a governing coalition official said on Tuesday.

Western nations have been delivering more air defense hardware to Ukraine since President Volodymyr Zelensky last month asked the leaders of the Group of Seven (G7) nations for help to stop Russian missiles raining down on Ukrainian cities.

The Italian coalition official, who declined to be named, said Rome was ready to provide Ukraine with a variety of air-defense systems, including the medium-range Franco-Italian SAMP/T and Italian Aspide, as well as portable Stinger missiles.

However, it remains unclear how many of these it could offer or when any shipment might be delivered, the official said.

Italy pledges to support Ukraine from Russian invasion

Italian Defense Minister Guido Crosetto spoke by phone on Monday with US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and pledged to support Ukraine against Russia's invasion for "as long as necessary," a statement said.

Italy approved its first weapons delivery to Kyiv late in February, under the national unity government of Mario Draghi. Giorgia Meloni's newly installed right-wing coalition government is preparing the sixth round of supplies.

  Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskiy attends a meeting of the National Security and Defence Council in Kyiv, Ukraine September 30, 2022. (credit: Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/Handout via REUTERS) Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskiy attends a meeting of the National Security and Defence Council in Kyiv, Ukraine September 30, 2022. (credit: Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/Handout via REUTERS)

Meloni is a staunch supporter of Ukraine despite the ambivalence of her coalition allies, Matteo Salvini and Silvio Berlusconi, who both have historically close ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Rome has never disclosed details of the arms it has sent to Kyiv since the Russian invasion, but Italian and Ukrainian media have said previous shipments included multiple launch rocket systems (MLRS), Pzh2000 howitzers and armored vehicles.

On Monday, Kyiv said it had received its first delivery of NASAMS air defense systems from the United States. French President Emmanuel Macron also pledged last week to boost Kyiv's anti-air defenses.