'Can't make this up!' Italian Howitzers for Ukraine stopped by traffic police in Naples

Italy stepped up to the pledge of sending Howitzers to Ukraine, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said on Wednesday. But three tanks believed to be on their way from Italy to Ukraine were stopped by traffic police on Thursday. Naples Traffic Police stopped the Pzh 2000 tanks at the Mercato San Severino tollbooth of the A30 Salerno-Caserta motorway because the tractors and semi-trailers of the private companies in charge of their transport did not have the registration certificate and the scheduled periodic inspection had expired.

One of the drivers was also not authorised to drive exceptional means of transport.

According to Italian daily Il Mattino, the heavy vehicles, coming from the military base in Persano (Salerno), had Ukraine as their final destination.

However, the Italian Defence Ministry said: “The transported vehicles, Pzh2000, were headed to Germany for an exercise.

“The transport of the vehicles coming from the military base of Persano in Salerno was the responsibility of a private company which, following checks carried out, did not have the correct documentation.”

Two other vehicles, which passed the controls, continued on their journey.

Commenting on the news, Politico reporter Hans von der Burchard said: “Can’t make this up: Just as we’re reporting from the NATO summit that Italy mulls to finally step up its weapons deliveries to Ukraine (concretely, I heard Italy might send three ‘Panzerhaubitze 2000’ howitzers), traffic police stopped three such howitzers ‘bound for Ukraine’ close to Naples because the vehicles transporting them lacked registration papers and maintenance.”

The news comes as leaders from NATO member nations gathered in Madrid for a summit on the tail of the G7 meeting in Germany. Russia has been a key topic of discussion during the talks, with the alliance almost unanimously agreeing to step up defences in Europe, as well as seeing two new members approved to join.

Speaking on the fringes of the NATO conference, Mr Rutte said Italy “will be supplying” Ukraine with heavy weapons “similar” to the Howitzers that Germany and the Netherlands are sending to the country.

Sending such equipment will increase Italy’s support to Ukraine, however, in spite of Mr Rutte suggesting the news, Rome has yet to comment or confirm details.

Mr Rutte also commented on the importance of sending such weapons to Ukrainian defences.

He said: “It is incredibly important that Ukraine is getting supplied with sufficient heavy weapon systems.”

This came as Mr Rutte and other NATO members agreed the “big concern” was the current situation in eastern Ukraine.

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German Defence Minister Christine Lambrecht asked her Italian colleague Lorenzo Guerini in April whether Rome could participate in joint deliveries of artillery to Ukraine, but was rebuffed.

A spokesperson for the Italian defence ministry refused to comment on a potential delivery of Howitzers, saying: “In Italy, the list of material for Ukraine is classified.”

The Dutch premier also slammed other NATO allies for not sending enough heavy armoury to Ukraine, without specifying which countries he was referring to.

By far the largest supporter of Ukraine has been the United States with billions of dollars of material pledged and sent to Ukraine.

Included in the supplies have been heavy weapons such as Howitzers, Multi-Rocket Launch Systems and HIMARS.

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