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MILAN, June 10. /TASS/. Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wendesday will attend the EXPO-2015 universal exhibition in Milan and will launch the National Day of Russia.
The programme for Putin’s one-day visit to Italy also features talks with Prime Minister Matteo Renzi in Milan and with President Sergio Mattarella in Rome. On Wednesday afternoon, Putin is due to visit the Vatican to meet with Pope Francis. The Russian leader may also meet with former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.
The current trip is Putin’s sixth foreign visit since the start of the year. Since January, he has already travelled to Egypt, Belarus, Hungary, Kazakhstan and Armenia. His last visit to Italy took place in November 2013.
Kremlin aide Yuri Ushakov told reporters on Tuesday that Putin was expected to deliver speech at the opening ceremony for the National Day of Russia on Wednesday and then visit the Russian and Italian pavilions together with Italy’s prime minister.
The theme of the exhibition this year is "Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life". Russia’s pavilion, one of the largest with the area of over 3,000 square meters, represents five of the country’s regions, namely Moscow, Tatarstan, Kaluga, Tula and Rostov. Some 400,000 people have already visited the Russian pavilion, Ushakov said, adding that a total of 2.7 million people have attended the exhibition that opened on May 1.
On the same day, Putin is expected to have talks with Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi. The last time the two men met was in Moscow three months ago. Ushakov said he believed among the key issues under discussion would be trade and economic problems. Over the past months, Russia and Italy have intensified contacts in the framework of foreign ministries and respective ministries in the economic and culture spheres, he said.
Italy remains one of Russia’s leading partners and is the third in Europe and fourth in the world in terms of trade turnover, the Kremlin aide stressed. Last year, the bilateral trade turnover fell by 10%, and the Italian businesses have lost $1.42 billion. Putin and Renzi are due hold a joint news conference after their talks. Then, the Russian leader will leave for Rome, where he will meet Pope Francis and President Sergio Mattarella.
The talks between the two leaders, the first such meeting since Mattarella became president in early February 2015, will mainly focus on political issues and topical international agenda, Ushakov said.
It is expected that Putin will also see former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, whom he considers a close friend. Ushakov said that the timeframe had not been yet coordinated, but the meeting was expected to take place on Wednesday afternoon after the Russian leader’s conversation with Pope Francis,
Putin and Berlusconi were engaged in an active dialogue when the Italian politician led the country’s government. After Berlusconi’s resignation, the leaders continue maintaining friendly relations. In an interview with Italy’s Il Corriere della Sera ahead of his visit to Milan, Putin said he found it easy to be on good terms with Italy’s former prime ministers, Silvio Berlusconi and Romano Prodi, because they had always been guided by the interests of their country.
"No matter what posts we occupy or what our jobs are, we are still human, and personal trust is certainly a very important factor in our work, in building relations on the interstate level," Putin said.
He said it was not difficult for him to maintain friendly relations with the two former prime ministers. "I still don’t find it difficult, and I can tell you why. 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," he said. "We have always understood and felt that."
"This has been the key element underlying our good relations. I have always sensed a truly sincere interest in building interstate relations irrespective of the domestic political situation," Putin added.