Russian president Vladimir Putin will meet Pope Francis at the Vatican during a tour of Italy on June 10. Putin will also visit former Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi. The pontiff and Putin are believed to have the Ukraine at the top of their agenda.  Putin met with current Prime Minister Matteo Renzi in Milan and toured a Russian trade exhibit. Renzi has not joined other members of the G-7 Summit conference in calling for renewed sanctions on Russia that come as the Ukraine continues to be roiled by fighting between Ukrainian and pro-Russia forces that was unleashed in the wake of the 2014 Russian invasion of Ukrainian Crimea.
NATO is conducting a naval exercise in the Baltic Sea that involves dozens of war vessels and military aircraft. Military training is also being provided to Poland, aggravating Russia. Putin argued in a recent interview in Italy’s Corriere della Sera newspaper that Russia’s actions in Ukraine (and military flights close to NATO airspace) are merely defense and serve to protect Russia from a possible attack. For his part, Putin has said that “Russia would attack NATO only in a mad man’s dream.” 
According to Russia Today, this will be the second meeting between Pope Francis and Putin. “The two men champion similar conservative values,” opined RT, “in a rapidly changing world, as well as concerns for emerging threats to Christianity. During their last meeting in 2013, Putin and the Pope discussed the danger Christians face in the Middle East at the hands of radical Islamists.”



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Spero News writer Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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