Thursday

13th May 2021

Putin attacks EU sanctions on Italy trip

  • Putin and Renzi in Milan on Wednesday (Photo: kremlin.ru)

Russian leader Vladimir Putin said EU sanctions are harming the Italian economy on a visit to Milan on Wednesday (10 June).

"We spoke about the sanctions but this was a down-to-earth talk: We spoke not about their cancellation or curtailment but about these sanctions impeding the development of our relations”, he told press after meeting his Italian counterpart, Matteo Renzi.

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He said the sanctions cost Italian defence firms around €1 billion in lost income.

“They could have earned this money, could have had their enterprises’ production capacities utilised, could have created or maintained jobs. But this did not happen because of the sanctions”.

He added that bilateral trade declined by 10 percent in the last quarter of 2014 and by 25 percent in the first quarter of this year for the same reason.

Neither Renzi, nor his foreign minister, Paolo Gentiloni, gave signs Italy would veto renewal of the EU measures at the upcoming EU summit on 25 June, however.

Renzi gave Putin a warm welcome, saying he looks forward to attending to the 2018 football World Cup in Russia.

But he added: “We are in a difficult international situation, not just on account of issues which do not unite us”.

Gentiloni said, according to Reuters: “Italy has been combining loyalty to its allies [the EU and US] with a special relationship with Russia”.

Putin’s speech at the Milan Expo, which hosts a 4,000 square metre Russian pavilion on Russian science and food, concentrated on the “special relationship”.

He said there’ll be plenty of Italian firms at the St.Petersburg International Economic Forum on 18 June.

He noted that Italian arms maker Finmeccanica is working with Russian aviation and energy firms Sukhoi Corporation and Rosneft.

He added that Italy is, after Germany, the second biggest buyer of Russian gas in Europe, and that its energy firms, ENI and Enel, also work with Russia’s Rosneft and Lukoil.

“Italian businesspeople do not want to break off their mutually advantageous projects with Russia”, he said.

The international monitors in Ukraine, the OSCE, last week reported that pro-Russian forces tried to storm the Ukrainian town of Marinka using tanks, artillery, and rocket systems.

But Putin accused Ukraine of not respecting the ceasefire accord.

The Russian leader, who was excluded by G7 states after he annexed Crimea last year, also said he doesn’t need the G7: “There are broader formats, for instance, G20".

Putin will, later on Wednesday, visit Pope Francis in the Vatican.

He is also expected to meet Silvio Berlusconi, a convicted fraudster, who cultivated close ties with Moscow in his time as Italian PM.

For his part, archbishop Svyatoslav Shevchuk, the head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, told press in Warsaw the Pope should urge Putin to stop the war.

“We, Catholics, believe that the Holy Father, as a follower of Christ on Earth, has a special grace of the Holy Spirit, which will not allow the continuation of this aggression and war”, he said, Reuters reports.

The US ambassador to the Vatican, Kenneth Hackett, said the US would like to see the Vatican increase concern on Ukraine.

Putin is not on an EU blacklist.

But his visits to EU states have become rarer since the Ukraine crisis broke out.

He was in Hungary in February, in Italy and Serbia in October, and in Austria last June.

He went to some WWII memorials last year. But he skipped events in the Czech Republic and in Poland in January, while most EU leaders boycotted a WWII parade in Moscow in May.

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