European and Asian leaders lining up to meet Putin in Milan

In the Italian city of Milan that hosts the 10th Asia-Europe Summit (ASEM), Russian President Vladimir Putin will hold talks on issues of the Ukrainian crisis with leaders of Western countries and his Ukrainian counterpart Poroshenko. The meetings may bring results that could contribute to resolving the situation in the east of Ukraine. In addition, it is possible that the contacts between the leaders will mitigate the so-called war of sanctions.

The Russian president will take part in the work of the ASEM summit for the first time. Yesterday, President of Italy Giorgio Napolitano invited 53 leaders for dinner at the Royal Palace in Milan. According to Corriere della Sera, only Russian President Vladimir Putin was absent at dinner - he arrived in Milan late. The Russian leader flew to Italy from Serbia, where he took part in the celebrations of the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Belgrade from Nazi invaders.

It was reported that due to Putin's late arrival in Italy, his scheduled meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel would be canceled. However, the talks between Merkel and Putin did take place and lasted for 2.5 hours. The talks  revealed major differences between the two leaders on the Ukrainian problem.

The discussion of the Ukrainian crisis, is to become the central topic of the summit. On October 17th, Putin had breakfast twice - in an expanded format and separately with Prime Minister of Italy Matteo Renzi.

On Friday morning, Italian Prime Minister Renzi arranged breakfast for his guests: Russian President Vladimir Putin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Francois Hollande, President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko, British Prime Minister David Cameron, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, President of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Italy Federica Mogerini, who will take office as EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security on November 1.

According presidential aide Yury Ushakov, Putin will also have breakfast with Italian Prime Minister Renzi. This will be their first meeting after Renzi's appointment for the position of the Italian prime minister in February.

Putin will also conduct a separate meeting with Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann. The Russian president may have meetings with other European leaders, who had previously inquired about such a possibility, Ushakov said. Putin may thus have meetings with British Prime Minister David Cameron and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. According to Italian publication Quotidiano, in the evening, Putin will also meet with Giorgio Napolitano.

The 10th ASEM Summit has been held every two years since 1996. The current summit set a record on the number of participating states and governments - 53 guests in total. Ukrainian leader Poroshenko arrived in Milan as a personal guest of the Italian prime minister, as Ukraine applied for ASEM membership in September.

The agenda of the summit, in addition to the Ukrainian crisis, includes such discussions as consequences of the financial and economic crisis, resistance to traditional and new challenges, non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, issues of energy security, stable economic development, climate change, ecology, promotion of dialogue and cultural ties between civilizations.

As told by Yuri Ushakov, Putin will attend the session of the summit in a narrow, "retreat" format. "The session, in which our president will participate, is the most interesting one. It includes such discussions as strengthening dialogue and cooperation between Europe and Asia, as well as areas for further development of ASEM," he said.

According to the Kremlin, Putin will deliver a short speech at the session. The session will discuss the situation in Asia and Europe, as well as current security challenges, including terrorism, transnational crime and piracy.

At the same time, Ushakov added, no documents are planned to be signed at the summit. Chairman of the forum, Herman Van Rompuy, will make a statement summarizing the results of the discussion.

Meanwhile, the Russian press has paid great attention to Vladimir Putin's visit to Serbia, where he stopped on his way to Italy. In particular, Putin took part in a large-scale military parade to mark the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Belgrade from Nazi invaders, promised to control Ukraine's attempts to siphon off transit natural  gas to Europe and discussed the prospects of building the South Stream project.

In Belgrade, Putin was welcomed pompously. To show their respect to the Russian leader, the Serbian authorities decided to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Belgrade four days prior to the official date. The authorities of Serbia even organized a military parade for the first time since 1985. As reported, as many as three thousand troops took part in the parade. In addition, Serbian pilots joined Russia's famous aerobatic team "Swifts" for demonstration flights.

At the talks with Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic, the leaders talked about friendly relations between the two countries, as well as about cooperation in the energy sector, the Rossiyskaya Gazeta wrote. Putin touched upon the Kosovo issue. He assured Nikolic that Russia was taking a principled position on the subject. "We support and intend to support Serbia in the future as well. Russia does not sell friendship," he said.

There are no diplomatic relations between Moscow and Kosovo. The Russian diplomatic office in Pristina is a division of the Embassy in Belgrade.

Putin and Serbian Prime Minister Alexander Vucic discussed shipments of Serbian FIAT to Russia, the Kommersant said. The Russian leader also touched upon questions of preparation for winter against the backdrop of the unclear situation with gas supplies to Europe. "There will not be any problems with gas supplies to Europe, which the Russian side would cause. Yet, there are transit risks, and if we see that our Ukrainian partners, like in 2008, would be siphoning gas from the gas pipeline to Europe, we will cut supplies accordingly," Putin said.

Putin also said that Russia's investments in Serbia would grow twice during the upcoming three years, to nearly ten billion dollars. He also said that Russia gave Serbia a loan of $800 million for the development of Serbian railways. 


AP photo

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Author`s name Dmitry Sudakov