Italy’s Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte arrived in Moscow for talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The two men began their meeting in the Kremlin with Conte saying that the two countries had managed to preserve the “quality and volume of our ties”.

“The volume of our economic ties has remained strong,” he said on October 24. “Despite the difficult times, our political contacts have remained on a high level.”

Italy is Russia’s sixth-largest trading partner, with growth sustained over the past two years, Putin told the Italian prime minister.

As reported by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), bilateral trade between Russia and Italy have been badly hit by EU sanctions that were imposed on Russia over Moscow’s takeover of Crimea in March 2014 and its support for separatists in eastern Ukraine. Joint investment projects have also been affected.

At the Kremlin, Putin also thanked Italian authorities for quick assistance to the Russian soccer fans who were injured when an escalator in a Rome metro station broke late on October 23.

Earlier in the day, the Italian prime minister held talks with his Russian counterpart, Dmitry Medvedev, who expressed hope that his visit will give a new impulse to bilateral cooperation.