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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

EU Upset With Italy Over Russia

BRUSSELS, Belgium -- Relations between Italy and its EU partners have soured over Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's handling as EU president of a meeting last week in Rome with President Vladimir Putin, officials said Friday.

One diplomat, who asked not to be named, said "an overwhelming majority" of the 15 EU nations and the 10 countries joining the union in May are angry that Berlusconi was "soft" on human rights violations in Russia.

The issue will be raised at a meeting of EU foreign ministers Monday, "a truly rare and unprecedented procedure," the diplomat said.

Moscow's crackdown on rebels in Chechnya and the arrest of oil magnate Mikhail Khodorkovsky were not mentioned in a post EU-Russia summit statement. But at a news conference later, Berlusconi vigorously defended Putin. "I know President Putin well enough to guarantee that he is very clear about the separation between the judicial power and the executive power," he said.

Officials said most EU governments feel if Berlusconi could not get Chechnya into a summit statement, he should not have defended Putin's rights record afterward.