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We haven't jeopardized Russian sanctions: Enel chairman

Italian firms still operating in Russia have not damaged the international sanctions placed on the country, one of Italy's top business leaders told CNBC on Friday, as Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in St. Petersburg to discuss economic cooperation between the two countries.

"We generate and sell energy in the country ... I do not believe that we have jeopardized, in any way, the sanctions," Patrizia Grieco, chairman of Enel, an Italian multinational utilities company, told CNBC.

Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) shakes hands with Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi.
Sasha Mordovets | Getty Images
Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) shakes hands with Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi.

She spoke from the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum in Russia, where Renzi and Putin are meeting. The 28 European Union (EU) countries will meet in July to decide whether to renew sanctions against Russia. The country's relationship with Europe has deteriorated since the European Union imposed sanctions on Moscow after its incursion in Crimea in 2014 and its alleged role in the pro-Russian uprising in eastern Ukraine.

There are signs of disagreement on the matter among EU members, with Baltic countries on Russia's borders typically keener on maintaining tough sanctions, while countries like Greece have flagged the possibility of tailing them off.

"We have been staying in Russia since 12 years, since 2004, and so it's a long lasting relationship for Enel in the energy sector. I guess that the approach of the Italian government to keep a bi-lateral relationship with the Russian government was, let me say, a proper one," said Grieco.

"And it was helped also by some Italian companies which continued to operate in Russia."

Demand for electricity has risen slightly in Russia, despite the country's recession, Enel said in its interim report in March.

Enel generated 213 million euros ($240 million) in sales in Russia in the first quarter of 2016, down from 274 million euros in the same period in 2015. The company said this was largely due to the depreciation in the ruble versus the euro and the decline in power generation from a local plant.

Enel's total first-quarter revenue was 17.9 billion euros this year, down from 20.0 billion euros in the same period in 2015.