October 16, 2018 / 8:50 AM / a month ago

Italy's PM criticises economic sanctions against Russia

FILE PHOTO - Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte holds a news conference after participating in the NATO Summit in Brussels, Belgium July 12, 2018. REUTERS/Darrin Zammit Lupi

ROME (Reuters) - European Union sanctions against Russia are damaging Italian businesses, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said on Tuesday, underscoring growing unhappiness in Rome over the long-running curbs on Moscow.

EU leaders imposed sanctions in 2014 to penalise Russia for annexing Crimea from Ukraine and backing rebels fighting government troops in the east of Ukraine.

The curbs on doing business with Russian banking, financial and energy sectors were renewed in June but expire at the end of January and are up for discussion in Brussels.

Italy has not yet confirmed that it will agree to extending them.

“Sanctions, for their own sake, only damage our companies, which we intend to protect, as well as Russia’s civil society,” Conte said, addressing parliament ahead of an EU summit in Brussels on Thursday.

His comments came a day after Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini had described the EU sanctions as a “social, cultural and economic absurdity”.

Conte said the EU meeting would provide an opportunity to discuss “how to correctly pursue what I define as a double-track approach: determination coupled with dialogue”.

Conte is scheduled to meet Russia President Vladimir Putin next week in Moscow. Salvini is due to lead a delegation of Italian entrepreneurs later this week to a conference in Moscow organised by the Russian Industrialist Union.

Reporting by Angelo Amante; Writing by Giulia Segreti; Editing by Crispian Balmer and Ed Osmond

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