War in Ukraine: Italy Takes a Stand

| Wed, 03/02/2022 - 05:47
Peace flags in Italian city

As the Ukraine crisis intensifies, thousands of Italians last weekend gathered in cities from north to south to protest the Russian invasion of the East European country and say no to the war. They were joined by a large representation of the Ukrainian community in Italy.

Italy has the largest number of Ukrainian immigrants in Western Europe. The Ukrainian population in Italy is approximately 236,000, representing 4% of all foreign residents in Italy. Most of them (77%) are women, who mainly work as domestic caregivers. 

As the first buses filled with refugees started arriving in the north of Italy, the European Cultural Association Italy-Ukraine Maidan said Italy can expect to receive almost one million Ukrainian refugees. The estimate is based on the number of Ukrainians currently living in Italy, given that many relatives will seek to join them, the Italian news agency ANSA reported. 

The Italian government is aligned with the rest of Europe in responding to the war. On Sunday, Italy closed its airspace to Russian planes and announced it would send €110 million to Ukraine. It also pledged to send weapons to Ukraine, joining a long list of countries to do so.  

Italy’s Foreign Minister Luigi di Maio said in a tweet published on Sunday that the aid package is “a concrete expression of Italy’s solidarity and support for a people with whom we cultivate a fraternal relationship.”

The Italian government also set up a state of emergency until the end of this year to provide assistance to Ukrainian refugees, such as emergency accommodation, and to put in place preventative measures aimed at reducing Italy's reliance on Russian gas (Italy receives more than 40 percent of its natural gas from Russia).

Italian and Ukraine-based associations have been organizing fundraisers and food and clothing drives for civilians fleeing the war. These include the Ukrainian Red Cross and Voices of Children

The Italian sections of the UNHCR and UNICEF, together with the Italian Red Cross, have launched a fundraiser to bring clean water, health care, shelters, blankets, hygiene items, psychological support and other essential aid to Ukraine. Instructions for donating are available here (in Italian). 

In several Italian cities, donation sites have been set up to collect goods such as medicines, medical equipment, blankets, and non-perishable foods to be sent to Ukraine. The Ukraine Consulate in Milan has provided a list of collection sites in northern Italy and a fundraising account in support of the Ukraine military.