Putin Renzi italy
Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi during a joint news conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Milan, ItalyReuters

In Italy to hold talks with Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and Pope Francis, Russian President Vladimir Putin had the two heads of state wait for him, arriving late at both meetings.

The Kremlin leader first landed in Milan, where he was due to visit Expo Milano 2015 – a nutrition-themed global commercial fair – and discuss the Ukrainian crisis and other pressing international matters with his Rome counterpart.

Expected at 10.45am, he arrived about an hour later, leaving Renzi to have a couple of solo strolls down the universal exhibition site while waiting, Il Corriere della Sera reported.

Putin's legendary lateness struck again in the afternoon, as his plane landed at Rome's airport when his scheduled private audience with the pontiff was supposed to have already started.

He eventually arrived at the Vatican about 90 minutes after the agreed time. It was a deja vu for Pope Francis, who was left hanging for 50 minutes the first time he received the Russian leader in November 2013.

Putin's poor etiquette when it comes to timing is well known, although the reasons for it remain uncertain.

Among the figures he has kept waiting are Queen Elizabeth II (14 minutes), German Chancellor Angela Merkel (40 minutes), US Secretary of State John Kerry (3 hours) and even the parents of children killed in a 2002 plane crash – he was 2 hours overdue at a commemoration ceremony – according to the BBC.

His lateness has been the subject of editorials and analysis, although no common conclusion has been reached.

Some argue it is a well-crafted technique to get the psychological upper hand in diplomatic talks before they even start.

Others claim Putin is so methodical in his work that he spends so long preparing the meeting he ends up being late. The other theory is he is simply a late person.

Talks

In Milan, Putin visited the Russian pavilion at Expo and hailed the long-standing economic and cultural ties between his country and Italy.

Fresh from his snub at the G7 meeting, which used to be named G8 before Russia was suspended over its role in the Ukrainian crisis, he expressed the hope Moscow and Rome could co-operate to fight "the global threat of terrorism".

In recent months, Putin has been trying to woo some EU countries, including Italy and Greece, as the 27 member states are due to vote on the extension of sanctions against Russia in two weeks.

Economic penalties, implemented over accusations that the Kremlin has been directly fuelling the conflict in eastern Ukraine, were credited with causing a dramatic freefall of the Russian rouble in December 2014, although the currency has since stabilised.

EU states have to unanimously consent for the sanctions to be renewed and countries with strong financial ties with Russia, like Italy, are reluctantly backing the measures over fears they could backlash, harming their own battered economies.

Italian PM Renzi, however, seemed unkeen to break ranks, as he said an end to the sanctions was directly linked to a resolution of the conflict in accordance with the Minsk Protocol.

The Ukrainian crisis was expected to be high on the discussion agenda at the Vatican as well.

Ahead of Putin's arrival, the US ambassador to the Holy See, Kenneth Hackett, called on the pontiff to pressure the Russian president on the subject.

"We think they could say something more about concern of territorial integrity, those types of issues," Hackett said. "It does seem that Russia is supporting the insurgents. And it does seem that there are Russian troops inside Ukraine. This is a very serious situation."

Earlier this year, Pope Francis described the war in Ukraine as a "disgrace", but stopped short of laying blame with one of the two belligerent parties.

"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'."

After the audience with the pontiff, Putin is due to visit his old pal, former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. It is not certain if he will arrive on time.