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Russian President Dmitry Medvedev will meet with Pope Benedict XVI for the first time during his two-day visit to Italy next week, his office said on Thursday.
Medvedev is expected to discuss security and cooperation with Italian President Giorgio Napolitano and Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi in meetings on February 16-17 before his meeting with the Pontiff.
Then President Vladimir Putin visited the Vatican in 2007 to discuss ways to improve ties between the Roman Catholic and Russian Orthodox churches.
Neither Pope Benedict nor his predecessor, Pope John Paul II, ever visited post-communist Russia.
2011 has been designated a year of cultural exchanges between Russia and Italy.
MOSCOW, February 10 (RIA Novosti)
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The main event of the third day of the 11th meeting of the Valdai International Discussion Club in Sochi was the closing session with President Vladimir Putin. The atmosphere was calm and open, despite the current political tensions and the Russia-West confrontation. The Russian president said that it corresponded to the spirit of the Valdai Club.