Written by 06:28 World

Their City Has a Plaque From Putin. They Want Zelensky to Tear It Down.

A small copper plaque mounted across the piazza from the Basilica of St. Nicholas in Bari, Italy, pledges “friendship and cooperation” between the city and the Russian people. It is signed by someone who, for the past two years in Europe, has pursued anything but: President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia.

The plaque is a replica of a letter Mr. Putin sent in 2003, nearly two decades before his invasion of Ukraine, and for years it drew little notice from Bari’s residents or the tens of thousands of pilgrims who visit the site annually to venerate the saint, whose remains are interred there. But a growing number of people now see it as sign of Mr. Putin’s hypocrisy — particularly among a diaspora of local Ukrainians who want it taken down.

The war will be among the most pressing issues that leaders of the world’s largest advanced economies and President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine will discuss this week at an annual meeting of the Group of 7, which is being hosted by Italy and held just an hour down the road. For the many residents of Bari who have wanted the plaque removed since the war began, the gathering nearby is seen as a chance to enlist Mr. Putin’s fiercest international critics to their cause.

“Since Putin has been declared an international criminal, to have that plaque and to have his signature and his name on it, and display it proudly in front of the church, is offensive,” said Alessandro de Biase, a local businessman.

“If it was down to me, I would bring Zelensky here himself and ask him for help to take down the plaque,” Mr. de Biase said.

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Last modified: 11 June 2024
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