Italy PM Draghi to visit Russia’s Putin in Moscow ‘as soon as possible’

Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi will travel “as soon as possible” to Moscow after an invitation by Russian President Vladimir Putin, Rome’s foreign minister said Thursday.

“We have responded positively to President Putin’s invitation for Prime Minister Draghi to visit Moscow and we are coordinating… on a date, as soon as possible,” Luigi Di Maio said after talks in Moscow with Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov.

The announcement came amid intense diplomatic efforts to ease a crisis over Ukraine, which Western officials say Russia is preparing to invade.

The Russian troop build-up near Ukraine’s borders and Western threats to respond to an invasion with painful economic sanctions have brought tensions between Moscow and the West to their highest level since the end of the Cold War.

Rome has been assured Russia is “ready to find a diplomatic solution to the crisis,” Di Maio told a joint press conference, adding: “Common sense and diplomacy must prevail.”

Russia on Thursday announced more troop pullbacks from the border, as Washington insisted that Moscow is still building up forces for a potential invasion.

After previously announced withdrawals earlier this week, the United States, NATO and Ukraine all said they had seen no evidence of a pullback.

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