Russian President Vladimir Putin has hosted Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte in Moscow for talks that were expected to focus on efforts to boost economic relations.
As the two leaders began their meeting in the Kremlin on October 24, Conte said Russia and Italy had managed to preserve the "quality and volume of our ties."
Italy is Russia's sixth-largest trading partner, with growth sustained over the past two years, Putin told the Italian prime minister.
"The volume of our economic ties have remained strong," he said. "Despite the difficult times, our political contacts have remained on a high level."
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.
Conte, who is in Russia just days after his interior minister, invited Putin to visit Italy in the near future.
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.
During his visit to Moscow last week, Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini said his country opposes a renewal of the EU sanctions against Russia, calling them "economic, social, and cultural madness."
But Salvini, who leads the far-right League party, stopped short of saying Rome will veto a plan to roll over the sanctions, which are due to expire in January.
Rome has long said that the EU sanctions are damaging to Italian firms trading with Russia. Its calls for deescalating tensions with Moscow have grown louder since Conte’s populist government took office in June.