Putin pope Francis
Pope Francis meets Russia's President Vladimir Putin during a private audience at the VaticanReuters

Russian President Vladimir Putin is to meet Pope Francis during a visit to Italy in June, the Vatican and the Kremlin have said.

A Vatican spokesman told IBTimes UK the encounter is scheduled for 10 June in the afternoon, and will most likely take place at the Holy See although details were still being worked out.

Earlier, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Russia media they were trying to organise the meeting.

It will not be the first time that Putin, who has close ties with the Russian Orthodox Church, meets Pope Francis.

The two talked for 35 minutes during a private audience at the Holy See in November 2013, when part of the discussion reportedly focused on the Syrian civil war.

This time another crisis that broke just months after that visit and has Russia as one of the main players is likely to be high on the agenda.

Earlier this year, the pontiff described the war in Ukraine as a "disgrace", decrying the killings among Christians that it entailed.

"This is war between Christians," Francis said in February. "When I hear the words 'victory' or 'defeat' I feel a great pain, a great sadness fills my heart, the only right world is 'peace'."

Moscow has been accused of directly fuelling the conflict by supporting an insurgency in eastern Ukraine after snatching the Crimean peninsula.

As a consequence the West has imposed economic sanctions on Russia, and pledged to isolate Putin diplomatically.

Earlier this week, the Kremlin announced the president was to travel to Italy as cracks in the united European stance against Moscow started to appear.

In the coming weeks EU countries will have to decide whether to renew the sanctions which are set to expire this summer.

A unanimous vote is necessary to for the measure to be extended, however, nations with strong financial ties with Russia, including Italy, fear the sanctions could backlash, harming their own economies.

Hours before meeting the Pope, Putin will be visiting the universal exhibition in Milan and is also expected to hold talks with government officials.

Putin's Italian tour is scheduled just two days after US President Barack Obama and other world leaders assemble without him in Germany for the G7 summit, known as G8 before Russia was suspended last year as punishment for its role in the Ukraine crisis.