Russian President Vladimir Putin met with Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi on Wednesday and pushed against international sanctions imposed on Moscow, stating that they have also negatively affected Italy’s business and cost the country millions of dollars.
Putin and Renzi held a joint press conference at the 2015 Milan Expo before the Russian president moved on to meet Pope Francis.
“My Italian partners have always put the interests of Italy, of the Italian people, first and believed that in order to serve the interests of their country, including economic and political interests, they must maintain friendly relations with Russia,” Putin told Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera.
He also said “Italian companies missed out on a billion euros,” referring to many contracts signed by Italian firms being on halt. “They could have given their enterprises work, created jobs. That didn’t happen because of the sanctions.”
Putin was frustrated with the G7 group, consisting of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States, initially G8 before Russia was locked out, saying that the group is “not an organisation, just a club.”
The Italian prime minister gave a cautious response by praising the relationship between Italy and Russia but also spoke of “elements of division” over Ukraine.
“We are in a difficult international situation, not just on account of issues which do not unite us but also for issues which should see us ever more on the same side in a very complicated international scenario, starting with the global threat of terrorism,” he said at the Milan Expo.
Putin and Renzi both agreed that the the Minsk agreement needs to be fully implemented.
“The Minsk agreement is the compass by which we should be guided,” said Renzi. “It is our polar star.”
Although the West doubts Russia’s sincerity, Putin, also called for the “full implementation of the Minsk agreement.”
“Unfortunately the Minsk agreements are not being not implemented fully, only selectively,” said Putin pointing the finger at Ukraine for allegedly provoking the latest fighting on June 3 to put pressure on the European Union to extend sanctions.
The Minsk agreement reached in February has many accords including a ceasefire deal and the removal of heavy weapons by both sides.
The West has reasoned the sanctions on Moscow accusing Russia of violating various rights by allegedly aiding pro-Russian separatist in eastern Ukraine fight against the government as well as annexing Crimea in March 2014.
Since the conflict broke out in eastern Ukraine, more than 6,400 people have died and the pro-Russian separatists have taken control of two major areas in the east of the country following the annexation.
Due to Russia annexing Crimea, the EU and the US issued several sanctions on Sept. 14, 2014 aimed at restricting Moscow’s banking, energy and arms industries following accusations Russia is providing military and political support to pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine.