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VATICAN, March 13 (RIA Novosti) - Russian President Vladimir Putin arrived at the Vatican Tuesday for his first meeting with Pope Benedict XVI.


The meeting is expected to help improve relations between the Catholic and Orthodox Churches, which have been strained over the Russian Orthodox Church accusing the Vatican of trying to spread the influence of Catholicism.

Putin twice met with Pope John Paul II, Benedict XVI's predecessor, who was elected Pope in April 2005.

Putin, currently on a working visit to Italy, earlier met with Italian counterpart Giorgio Napolitano, and will hold bilateral talks with Prime Minister Romano Prodi Wednesday.