Photo by Claudio Peri/EPA
Russian President Vladimir Putin is set to meet Pope Francis today at the Vatican — after making the claim in the Italian press that the Lord ensures that he never makes mistakes.Before heading to the Vatican, Putin had talks in Milan with Italian Premier Matteo Renzi — one of the G7 leaders who this week reaffirmed economic sanctions against Moscow over the Ukraine crisis, saying they were ready to strengthen them if the conflict escalates.
In an interview with the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera ahead of his Vatican visit, Putin rejected criticism over Ukraine, and said the deterioration of relations with the West is "not our choice."Around 2am, at the end of the interview, Corriere della Sera editor Luciano Fontana asked the Russian leader if there was one action in his life he regretted more than any other, that he considered a mistake.Putin adjusted his chair and his eyes seemed to light up, the paper reported. He remained silent for a few seconds, then reportedly said in a soft voice: "I'll be absolutely frank with you. I cannot recollect a single thing. Clearly the Lord has made my life so that I have nothing to regret."At the time of the publication of this article, Putin was an hour late for his visit to the Vatican.Putin also told the Italian publication that it is "in the interests of the Italian people… to maintain friendly relations with Russia," The Independent reported.Watch the VICE News documentary Putin's Propaganda Machine: [ooyalacontent_id="5zczIzdTq_tbZjCaLIxcaZo1hF5GLbem"player_id="YjMwNmI4YjU2MGM5ZWRjMzRmMjljMjc5" auto_play="1" skip_ads="0"]On Wednesday, Kenneth Hackett, the US ambassador to the Holy See, said the United States "would like to see the Vatican increase its" concern about what is happening in Ukraine during the pope's meeting with Putin.While the pope has deplored the loss of life in Ukraine and has called for all sides to respect the increasingly-fragile ceasefire, he has not publicly placed any blame on Russia for the crisis — in an apparent bid to not upset Vatican relations with the Orthodox Church.
The United States, NATO, and European leaders have blamed Moscow for supplying rebels with manpower, training and weapons, accusations Russia denies.Related: Here's How Russia Will Reclaim Its Future From Vladimir PutinMeanwhile, presumed US presidential hopeful Jeb Bush stuck his oar in on Tuesday night, telling delegates at an economic conference in Berlin that Putin was "a ruthless pragmatist who will push until someone pushes back."After expressing his support for the "Russian people," Bush, a likely contender for the Republican nomination, said: "Ultimately, Russia needs to be a European nation. Everything we do should be to isolate its corrupt leadership."According to the website Politico, anti-Putin rhetoric will be the theme of Bush's trip, and will only be ramped up when the former Florida governor visits the Russian border states of Poland and Estonia later this week.Day 1 in Germany: Our alliance, our solidarity, and our actions are essential for prosperity and security.https://t.co/TFkIo4mtmr — Jeb Bush (@JebBush) June 10, 2015