Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky discussed the latest developments in the Russia-Ukraine crisis via telephone on Tuesday.

Draghi reiterated Italy’s firm support for Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty, the Italian Prime Ministry said in a statement.

The statement stressed the importance of keeping dialogue with Moscow open and joint efforts to find a permanent and sustainable solution.

Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio met his Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba in Kiev on Tuesday as part of Italy’s diplomatic initiatives with its partners and allies, the statement added.

Russia is accused, by Ukrainian officials, of amassing thousands of troops near Ukraine, prompting fears that it could be planning another military offensive against its former Soviet neighbor.

The US and its allies have warned of an imminent attack and threatened Russia with “severe consequences.”

Moscow, however, has denied it is planning to attack and said its troops are there for exercises.

The Russian Defense Ministry said Tuesday that some of its troops are returning to their bases as combat training missions “are coming to an end.” But a large-scale Russian-Belarusian military drill will last until Feb. 20.

NATO, however, said there has been no de-escalation on the ground.

* Writing by Zehra Nur Duz

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