Diplomacy is the key to defusing Ukraine-Russia tensions since a war will result in devastating consequences, the Italian foreign minister said Monday. 

“Dialogue should be the key to solving this crisis. However, it is obvious that we are watching Russia’s operations on the Ukrainian border with great concern,” Luigi Di Maio said at the EU Foreign Relations Council meeting in Brussels.

Maio expressed hope that tensions will defuse and a diplomatic solution will prevail, adding a war will lead to devastating consequences in Europe.

The Italian Embassy in Kyiv will continue to fully operate, the top diplomat said, while he called on Italian citizens in Ukraine to leave the country.

The observers of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) have a fundamental role in Ukraine and 15 Italian observers are carrying out an important mission there, Maio said.

Tensions have risen dramatically in eastern Ukraine this week, with a growing number of cease-fire violations, multiple shelling incidents, and evacuation of civilians from the pro-Russian separatist regions of Donetsk and Luhansk.

Western countries have accused Russia of amassing more than 100,000 troops near Ukraine, prompting fears that it could be planning a military offensive against its ex-Soviet neighbor.

Moscow has repeatedly denied any plan to invade Ukraine and instead accused Western countries of undermining Russia’s security through NATO’s expansion toward its borders.

* Writing by Gozde Bayar

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