Italy's Draghi says ready to step up curbs on Russia, hit oligarchs

Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi makes a statement on the Ukraine crisis, in Rome
Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi makes a statement on the Ukraine crisis, in Rome, Italy, February 24, 2022. Remo Casilli/REUTERS/Pool

ROME, March 1 (Reuters) - Italy is ready to impose further sanctions on Russia after its invasion of Ukraine, including targeting its oligarchs and increasing pressure on the central bank, Prime Minister Mario Draghi said on Tuesday.

Draghi also condemned Russia for putting its nuclear deterrent on high alert, telling parliament this amounted to blackmail and showed the effectiveness of the resistance to the invasion launched last week by President Vladimir Putin.

The United States, Britain, Europe and Canada imposed a wave of punishing sanctions on Russia in the wake of the military action, and Draghi said more could be in the offing.

"In particular, I have proposed further targeted measures against the oligarchs. The idea is to create a public international register of those with assets over 10 million euros ($11.2 million)," said Draghi.

The former president of the European Central Bank said he wanted to intensify pressure on the Russian Central Bank, adding that the Swiss-based Bank for International Settlements should participate in the sanctions.

Draghi said it was vital Europe did not let Russian aggression win and asked parliament to approve government plans to send weapons to Ukraine to help it defend itself.

The Senate overwhelmingly supported the proposal, with 244 votes in favour and 13 against -- rare backing in Italy for the export of arms to an active war zone.

A diplomatic source said among the weapons likely to be sent were Stinger anti-aircraft missiles and heavy machine guns.

Draghi said EU countries now needed to spend more on defence, either individually or working together, telling lawmakers that the Russian assault was a turning point in European history.

"The heroic resistance of the Ukrainian people, of its president (Volodymyr) Zelenskiy, confronts us with a new reality and forces us to make choices that were unthinkable just a few months ago," he said. ($1 = 0.8932 euros)

Writing by Crispian Balmer; Editing by Keith Weir and Gavin Jones

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