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Escorted by Italian Air Force jets, Zelensky arrives in citadel Rome

Massive security was put in place in Rome for Zelensky's visit as he landed at Ciampino military airport (Image courtesy: Twitter/@ultimoranet)

Security was heightened in Italy on Saturday as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky flew straight to Rome from Poland’s Rzeswov to meet Pope Francis and Italian leaders on a one-day whistle-stop visit.

The Italian Air Force plane carrying Zelensky from Jasionka airport in southeastern Poland was escorted by fighter jets as soon as it entered the country’s airspace.

At the Ciampino military airport in Italy’s capital, Zelensky was received by Italy’s Foreign Minister, Antonio Tajani who tweeted renewed commitment to the Ukrainian people “in defence of freedom and democracy”.

Zelensky then met Italian President Sergio Mattarella who also confirmed Italy’s “full support” for Ukraine in terms of military, financial, humanitarian and reconstruction aid, in the short and long term.

As he headed to meet the country’s Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni in the courtyard of Palazzo Chigi, several videos of Zelensky’s motorcade, believed to contain around 30 cars, went viral on social media.

The Ukrainian President is scheduled to meet Pope Francis at the Vatican later on Saturday.

Zelensky’s trip to Italy comes on the day Germany announced a new 2.7 billion Euro weapons package for Ukraine and promised to supply all the help that it can, and “for as long as necessary”, to Kyiv in its ongoing conflict with Russia.

Over the past few weeks, several reports have indicated that Kyiv is on the threshold of launching its much-anticipated counter-offensive against Russian troops even as fighting intensified around the embattled Ukrainian city of Bakhmut.

Zelenskyy, however, said earlier this week that the country needs “a little more time” as it awaits the arrival of fresh Western military aid.