A man holds a placard prior to the arrival of Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Expo 2015 global fair in Milan, northern Italy, June 10, 2015. REUTERS/Flavio Lo Scalzo
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Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi welcomed visiting Russian President Vladimir Putin Wednesday but offered no sign of breaking ranks with international partners over European Union sanctions against Moscow.Two weeks before the EU is due to decide whether to extend economic sanctions over Russia's 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine, Renzi praised the "traditional Italian Russian friendship" but spoke of "divergent positions" on some issues.Russia enjoys better relations with Italy than with most other EU countries.Putin referred to a "special relationship" with Rome.Underlining what he said was Italy's consistency in relations with its European and U.S. allies, Gentiloni said: "Italy has been combining loyalty to its allies with a special relationship with Russia".He did not subscribe to Putin's version of events in Ukraine, he said.
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