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Italian MPs back Draghi despite coalition splits

By AFP - Jun 22,2022 - Last updated at Jun 22,2022

Damaged houses are pictured following an earthquake in Gayan district, Paktika province on Wednesday (AFP photo)

ROME — Italian lawmakers voted overwhelmingly to back Prime Minister Mario Draghi's policy on Ukraine on Wednesday, the day after the largest partner in his coalition government imploded over the issue.

Draghi has taken a firm line on Russia's invasion, sending weapons to Kyiv, backing sanctions on Moscow despite Italy's reliance on Russian gas and supporting Ukraine's hopes of joining the European Union.

But there have been rumblings of unease within his coalition government, which burst into the open on Tuesday with a split in parliament's biggest party, the Five Star Movement.

Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio announced he was leaving the party, accusing it of showing "ambiguity" over Ukraine at a time when Western unity was crucial.

An estimated 60 lawmakers are following him into the grouping, dubbed "Together for the Future" — just over a quarter of the Five Star's parliamentary members.

The move risks upsetting the fragile balance of power in Draghi's coalition government, a year before general elections are due and at a difficult time for Italians battling skyrocketing inflation.

But a vote Wednesday suggests parliament still backs the premier, with the lower Chamber of Deputies agreeing by 410 to 29 a resolution supporting the Ukraine policy, albeit with more input from lawmakers.

The senate similarly approved it on Tuesday.

"Unity is essential in these moments because the decisions that must be taken are very difficult," Draghi said before Wednesday's result, which came one day before an EU summit in Brussels begins.

In an uncharacteristically combative address to deputies, the former head of the European Central Bank accused those who disagreed with his policy of effectively calling on Kyiv to surrender.

"There is a fundamental difference between two points of view. One is mine — Ukraine must defend itself, and sanctions and the sending of weapons serve this goal," Draghi said to applause.

"The other point of view is different. Ukraine must not defend itself, we shouldn't do sanctions, we shouldn't send armaments, Russia is too strong, why should we take her on, let Ukraine submit."

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