Italy's Prime Minister Mario Draghi on Tuesday said dialogue was key to solving the Ukrainian crisis, warning that the European Union (EU) was preparing sanctions against Russia.
His remarks came after Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday announced the recognition of the "Lugansk People's Republic" and the "Donetsk People's Republic" in east Ukraine's Donbass region as independent and sovereign states.
Russian Diplomat Unsurprised West Imposed Sanctions
"Dialogue remains crucial," Draghi stressed as he addressed the official opening ceremony of the Council of State's judicial year in Rome.
Russia's move is "an unacceptable violation of Ukraine's democratic sovereignty and territorial integrity, and I am in constant contact with our allies to find a peaceful solution to the crisis," he said.
"Within the European Union, we are already defining measures and sanctions against Russia," he said.
According to Putin, Russia considered the recognition of the two Donbass "republics" a necessary step to both protect itself from western powers -- which have been accused of being blind to Russia's security concerns -- and to protect pro-Russian citizens in the two territories.
Russia has repeatedly asked the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) to stop its eastward expansion in Europe. Ukraine is not a member of the U.S.-led military alliance, yet it has repeatedly expressed its interest in joining it.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said early on Tuesday that Ukraine had been calling for an emergency summit of the Normandy Format, a meeting of the United Nations (UN) Security Council, and a special meeting of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to address the issue.
The Normandy Format, established in 2014, is a diplomatic group of senior representatives from Ukraine, Germany, Russia and France formed to resolve the conflict in eastern Ukraine.
Italy is not part of the Normandy Format group. Yet, local media in recent days have speculated about a possible meeting between Draghi and Putin in order to de-escalate the tensions.
The Russian Presidency has signaled its interest in such a meeting, Draghi told a press conference on Friday.
Italy's Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio on Monday appealed to "all parties" involved in the crisis to resume diplomatic talks "in the due formats."
The conflict in eastern Ukraine began in April 2014 with clashes between Ukrainian government troops and local armed groups who seized several towns.
With the mediation of the global community, the two sides concluded ceasefire agreements in Minsk, the capital of Belarus, in September 2014 and February 2015.
Russia has been seeking NATO's guarantee to halt its eastward expansion. However, U.S. President Joe Biden's administration took a hard line against Russia, supporting Ukraine's efforts to join the U.S.-led military alliance and increasing its military assistance to Kiev, which has re-escalated tensions in the region.