Putin visits Berlusconi

Russian President Vladimir Putin perhaps couldn’t resist an invite from his Italian chum, former Premier Silvio Berlusconi, in the early hours of Friday to his mansion in Milan, according to the WSJ.

A Russian presidential spokesman said Mr. Putin visited “his old friend” Mr. Berlusconi following an invite from the Italian politician. Mr. Berlusconi heads Italy’s biggest opposition party.

President Putin, 62, must have felt the need to relax after his meeting with Ms. Merkel at 1.36 a.m. CET on Friday. He drove off with a large police escort, which included dark limousines, to Mr. Berlusconi’s house and stayed there until roughly 3 a.m.

Putin is in Italy for peace talks with European Union leaders after Ukraine threatened the flow of natural gas. The government in Kiev wants to divert fuel for domestic use as it cannot pay for gas, Bloomberg reported.

“There are big transit risks,” Putin said yesterday in Belgrade, Serbia. If Russia sees its Ukrainian partners “are starting to siphon off our gas from the export pipeline network, we will respond by reducing flows by the amount stolen.”

Italy is the major terminal for South Stream.

The Italian EU presidency is in favour of the Russian pipeline, South Stream, which would circumvent Ukraine to bring gas to south-east Europe.

“We think South Stream should go ahead, as it would improve the diversification of gas routes to Europe,” Italy’s state secretary for EU affairs Sandro Gozi said in July during a press event in Brussels.

He echoed statements made by Italian foreign minister Federica Mogherini who visited Moscow in the same month and met with her Russian counterpart.

South Stream would deprive Ukraine of transit revenues from the gas pipelines that cross its territory and bring about 80 percent of Russian gas exports to EU countries.

It would also enable it to cut off supplies to Ukraine to exert political pressure, without affecting its EU gas clients.

Michael Gonchar, a former executive at Ukraine’s gas distribution firm, Naftogaz, told EUobserver, that, together with Nord Stream, Russia’s recently-built pipeline to Germany, South Stream would give Moscow “a 100 percent monopoly on shipments of gas to Europe from the east”.

He added that it would make it less likely that the EU will ever build a gas pipeline to the Caspian Sea, the so-called Southern Corridor, to diversify supplies.