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Vladimir Putin in Rome to court Pope Francis despite differences


Vladimir Putin in Rome to court Pope Francis despite differences

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Photo: AFP/Gregorio Borgia/Getty

Russian President Vladimir Putin arrives in Rome today for the start of a bilateral visit that will see him hold talks with Italian PM Giuseppe Conte.

Putin is also expected hold talks with other members of Italy’s pro-Kremlin government, such as deputy PM and Northern League party leader, Matteo Salvini. Since the election of Italy’s populist government, it has shifted its foreign relations significantly. However, officially, Rome has not deviated far from the response of its EU counterparts.

The EU renewed sanctions against Russia for another six months in June. With sanctions requiring unanimity, the Italian government did not exercise a veto, but rather has ramped up its support for expanding economic ties with Russia. Putin is therefore expected to discuss Western sanctions against Russia, NATO’s build up in Eastern Europe and further developing economic and energy ties.

Considering that EU sanctions will be in place for at least another six months, relations between the two countries are unlikely to change significantly. Whilst Rome’s position on relations with Russia put its in direct contrast to Western and Central European allies such as France and Poland, relations are not expected to expand beyond energy and minor economic cooperation in the medium-term.

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