Putin to meet pope, 'welcoming' populist govt during Italy trip

  04 July 2019    Read: 828
Putin to meet pope,

Russian President Vladimir Putin arrives in Rome Thursday for a lightning visit including talks with the pope and Italy's populist government, which has called for an easing of sanctions despite Moscow's ongoing crisis with the West.

Rome's historic centre is on security lockdown for the visit with 50 streets blocked to traffic and Italian media reporting that mobile phone signals could be scrambled.

Putin will be driven around in his six-metre-long (20-foot) armoured limo by a chauffeur who has been practising negotiating his way around the Eternal City's narrow streets. His talks with Italian leaders should be easier.

Far-right Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini has often expressed admiration for Putin, and his coalition government advocates reviewing EU sanctions against Russia.

On the eve of the visit, Putin praised Salvini and his Lega party for having a "welcoming attitude" to Russia.

"They are pushing for a rapid abolition of the anti-Russian sanctions introduced by the US and the EU," Putin said in an interview with Corriere della Sera.

The US and EU have progressively imposed sanctions on Russia since its annexation of Crimea in 2014 and Moscow's involvement in the conflict in eastern Ukraine, including the shooting down of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17.

Salvini has previously visited Moscow and been pictured in pro-Putin T-shirts.

When his party won most Italian votes in May's European elections, Salvini posted a photo of himself with a picture of Putin in the background.

"Men like him (Putin) who act in the interest of their own citizens, there should be dozens in this country", Salvini said last year.

The Kremlin says Putin wants to discuss Russia-EU relations, the situation in Syria, Ukraine and Libya and Iran's nuclear programme.

 

AFP


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