Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi called for “de-escalation” in the crisis concerning Ukraine in a telephone call Tuesday with Russian President Vladimir Putin, warning of “serious consequences” otherwise.
Draghi and Putin agreed on “a common effort for a sustainable and lasting solution to the crisis and on the need to rebuild a climate of trust,” according to a statement from the office of the Italian leader.
Russia and the West have been increasingly at loggerheads regarding Moscow’s build-up of troops on the border with Ukraine, which is feared may be followed by an invasion. The Kremlin has denied any such plans.
In Europe, Italy is seen as one of the most dovish countries toward Russia, partly due to strong business ties between the two countries.
Last week, despite mounting tensions concerning Ukraine, Putin held a teleconference with Italian business executives.
In December, Draghi said the EU had few tools of “deterrence” against Russia, noting its military weakness and added that hitting Moscow with tougher economic sanctions, extended to the gas sector, was unthinkable.
“Are we really capable of doing it? Do we have the strength? Is it the right moment? Clearly the answer is ‘no,’” he said, alluding to the energy crisis which has made Europe more dependent on Russian gas imports.
Draghi concluded that the only option was to maintain “a state of engagement” with Putin.
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