Putin to visit Expo with Renzi

For Russian national day.

Russian president Vladimir Putin will visit Milan’s Expo 2015 on Wednesday 10 June to take a leading part in the celebration of the Russian national day.

Met and accompanied by prime minister Matteo Renzi, Putin will start a packed programme with a speech in the Russia pavilion, announced his diplomatic advisor Juri Ushakov. He will then pay a visit to the Italy pavilion to hold talks with Renzi and hold a press conference before flying to Rome to meet President Sergio Mattarella.

Diplomats will follow closely the Russian president’s second meeting with Pope Francis later in the day. The Vatican has held a neutral stance up to now in the Ukraine conflict, declining to take sides with the United States, the European Union and the Kiev government against the Russian Federation’s foreign policy. And although Francis has said he is keen to visit Russia, clearing the diplomatic path for such a visit is still far from completed.

Media speculation abounds over a possible meeting with his friend, former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi. No confirmation or denial of such a meeting has yet leaked from the security surrounding the one-day visit.

Meanwhile, a group of Ukranian exiles in Milan convened a protest in Piazza Cordusio against the Russian leader’s internal and international hard-line policies, asking Italy to state firmly that they are not in line with European values and practice.