EU sanctions hamper Italian-Russian commercial ties: Putin

Milan, June 10 (IANS) European Union (EU) sanctions against Russia are an obstacle for commercial relations with Italy, Russian President Vladimir Putin said here on Wednesday after meeting Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi.

Putin’s visit to Milan, where he inaugurated the Russia National Day at the Italian world exposition, came after the EU decided to extend the economic sanctions against Russia, which were due to expire in July, over its stance on Ukraine crisis developments, Xinhua reported.

“Because of the sanctions, Italian companies cannot earn 1 billion euros (about US $1.13) from the contracts which had been already signed,” Putin told a joint press conference. He said the sanctions are an “objective obstacle” for the bilateral commercial relations.

Putin recalled that Italy is the fourth commercial partner of Russia, but “for well-known reasons the trading volume declined by one-tenth in 2014 and by one quarter during the first three months of 2015.”

The Russian president said there are over 400 Italian companies in Russia totaling 1.1 billion dollars, while Russian investment in Italy amounts to 2.3 billion dollars.

However the two countries, he said, had to suspend many joint projects due to the sanctions.

“It is necessary to look for a way out of this situation: either you need to cancel the sanctions or offer other instruments if, of course, you want to support your companies,” the Russian president added.

“This is an unsatisfactory situation for Russia but I believe also for Italy. Italian entrepreneurs do not want a reduction of commercial exchanges,” Putin went on saying.

Earlier this year, the EU said the sanctions would not be lifted unless the Minsk agreement was fully implemented.

The reported violations of the Minsk ceasefire agreement on the Ukraine crisis reached late February cast shadows on the relationship between the EU and Russia.

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