Italians demand end to arms shipments to Ukraine during peace march in Rome

Tens of thousands of Italians marched through Rome on Saturday demanding a halt to arms shipments to Ukraine and a ceasefire, underscoring the resistance that Giorgia Meloni’s new government may face by providing additional military support to Kyiv.

Waving rainbow flags with the words “peace” and “non-violence”, members of unions and Catholic associations, scouts, students and a series of social activists demanded an end to the fighting and a serious international diplomatic initiative to negotiate a solution to the dispute.

“Ukrainians are dying, Russians are dying and it makes no sense,” said 56-year-old doctor Cynthia Masini. It is not tolerable. »

Citing Italy’s own history of violent conflict, marcher Spartaco Geppetti, 70, a member of an anti-fascist organization, called for dialogue to resolve issues between Russia and Ukraine. “We are against war and only want peace,” he said. “It’s not good for Europe or the world. They have to stop.

Other demonstrators held signs with slogans such as “lower the guns, raise the wages”, “enough guns for Ukraine” and “we don’t want war”. No weapons, no penalties. Where is the diplomacy?

Meloni, sworn as Prime Minister two weeks ago at the head of a new right-wing government, is a strong supporter of the Ukrainian cause and has vowed to continue his predecessor Mario Draghi’s firmness against Russia.

But it faces resistance to further arms deliveries as Italy’s economy reels from the effects of the conflict, including slowing growth and inflation which hit nearly 12% in October, the highest level for almost three decades.

Meloni’s alliance partners, League chief Matteo Salvini and Silvio Berlusconi, the 86-year-old former prime minister, both have past ties to Russian leader Vladimir Putin and have expressed ambivalence about the Draghi’s hard line against Moscow.

Berlusconi recently caused a stir when he told Forza Italia lawmakers that he had recently exchanged gifts of fine liquor and ‘sweet notes‘ with Putin, rekindling a long-standing personal friendship.

Meanwhile, five-star leader Giuseppe Conte, who backed Rome’s peace march, also warned against further arms shipments to Kyiv.

“Ukraine is now fully armed – we need a breakthrough towards a ceasefire and peace negotiations,” said Conte, who triggered the chain of events which led to the unexpected collapse of Draghi’s government, told reporters.

“Nobody thought Ukraine should be left alone, and we didn’t declare ourselves indifferent or equidistant,” Conte said. “But this strategy only leads to escalation.”

Many march participants echoed fears that arming Ukraine would only prolong the devastating conflict and could lead to the use of nuclear weapons.

“The drama in Ukraine should not be underestimated – the path to peace must be sought urgently,” said Andrea Riccardi, founder of the influential Catholic social organization Sant’Egidio. “The atomic threat is not a phantom, but a possible threat. . . We are not neutral but we defend peace.

Riccardi urged Putin, “out of love for his people to pull Russia out of the spirals of war” and asked [Ukrainian President Volodymyr] Zelensky “to be open to serious proposals for peace”.

Giovanni Timoteo, a member of the Confederation of Italian Workers, said: “I am absolutely against sending new weapons to Ukraine. Today, people want peace with arms. It is inconceivable. Ukraine has the right to defend itself, but we need a major UN initiative for peace.

Yet even as the heart of Rome filled with peace marchers, Carlo Calenda, leader of the centrist Azione party, staged a counter-protest in Milan, with the strong support of Italy’s large Ukrainian community.

“Those who call for peace but also for disarming Ukraine are calling for Ukraine’s surrender,” Calenda told reporters even before Milan.

Among the Milan protesters, Oles Horodetskyy, president of the Christian Association of Ukrainians in Italy, criticized the Rome marchers, asking “are they pro-peace or pro-Putin?”

“Not giving arms to those who defend themselves from attackers means favoring those who attack,” he added.

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