Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni's decision to inaugurate her country’s G7 Presidency from Kyiv conveyed a strong message both internationally and to key opposition parties internally: Italy’s support for Ukraine will not waver.

On February 24, 2024, two years to the day after Russia began its imperialistic full-scale war of aggression against Ukraine, Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni of Italy flew to Kyiv to host the first video-conference meeting of the G7 heads of state and government under the Italian presidency.

Meloni first attended a ceremony honoring Ukrainian fighters killed during the defense of the Hostomel airport, and then visited the Wall of Remembrance of Fallen Defenders. She also met President Zelensky separately in a bilateral meeting to finalize and sign a security cooperation agreement, following up on the commitments Italy had undertaken at the July 2023 NATO summit in Vilnius.

The decision to head the first G7 meeting of the Italian presidency from Kyiv was not only symbolic, but substantive: Prime Minister Meloni wanted to stress that Ukraine would be at the very core of the Italian G7 agenda. In doing so, she also sent a loud and clear message to friends and foes, internal and external: Italy will not retreat an inch from its support for Ukraine, despite the pressure—more or less visible—that Russia continues to exert on Italy through a variety of means.

In the early weeks of 2024, Russia visibly activated its influence networks in Italy, orchestrating events to gloss over its war crimes and disseminate anti-Ukrainian propaganda. On January 14, an event titled “Darya Dugina and the Donbass” was held in Milan, featuring speakers from former fascist and right-wing terrorist circles.

Furthermore, the relatively obscure cultural association “Emilia Romagna-Russia” scheduled a conference titled “The Rebirth of Mariupol” for January 20 in Modena with a lineup that included Dmitry Shtodin, Russia’s consul-general in Milan, and two pro-Russian Italian bloggers. However, the event was ultimately canceled by the local mayor following significant public backlash. Additionally, several Italian cities hosted the screening of “Il Testimone” (The Witness), a controversial movie financed by the Russian Ministry of Culture about the war in Ukraine.  

More recently, Putin’s responses to questions from an Italian student during a forum titled "Strong Ideas for New Times" garnered significant attention in the Italian media. Putin remarked, “Italy has always been near to our hearts. I recall the warmth of the people during my visits. In certain areas, I felt completely at home. That’s undeniable.”

The intensification of Russian political and propaganda efforts in Italy is strategically timed to coincide with the beginning of 2024, a year considered pivotal for the Italian government. This period is significant not only because of Italy’s presidency of the G7 but also for other reasons. Notably, Italians are set to participate in the European elections in June 2024. These elections have increasingly become a de facto “mid-term” for ruling parties in Italy, as they usually mark the first major, nationwide electoral event following the general elections. They serve as a crucial juncture for evaluating the stability of government coalitions and establishing new political dynamics, particularly among the governing parties. Against this backdrop, Meloni has consistently shown unwavering support for Ukraine, managing to maintain her government’s stance despite facing some initial challenges—for instance, vocal disagreement on the issue on the part of the late leader of Forza Italia and long-time Putin friend Silvio Berlusconi and Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini.

Within the current Italian coalition government, there is no unified stance on the issue of support for Kyiv and relations with Moscow. Notably, Salvini and his party, the League, maintain a considerably more ambiguous position regarding these matters. This ambiguity was evident in the aftermath of Navalny’s death, when Andrea Crippa, the League's vice-secretary and one of Salvini's close allies, commented, "We express our condolences, but … we will not hold anyone responsible until there is objective evidence." This statement, made against the background of Navalny’s death under grave circumstances, was seen as both awkward and reprehensible.

The League continuously exploits Italians’ lukewarm support for Ukraine to undermine Meloni’s leadership. Their strategy is aimed at enhancing their position in the forthcoming European elections. Capitalizing on this issue, they hope to siphon support from Meloni’s party, Brothers of Italy, and recalibrate the political dynamics that are presently skewed in her favor.

Meloni's strategic move to inaugurate Italy's G7 Presidency from Kyiv was a politically deliberate act designed to convey a strong message both within Italy and internationally: Italy’s support for Ukraine is unwavering and non-negotiable. She thus firmly established it as a cornerstone of Italy’s approach to its G7 Presidency and a paramount concern in its current foreign policy agenda. Neither tactical electoral concerns nor internal and external pressure to reduce support for Ukraine will undermine this approach.