Near G7 Summit Site, Controversy Rages Over Putin Plaque

Some residents of Bari, Italy, say Zelensky should remove it
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 10, 2024 1:29 PM CDT
Some Italians Want Zelensky to Take Down Putin Plaque
The Bari plaque.   (Wikimedia Commons/Ferdinando Traversa)

A controversy involving Vladimir Putin, Volodymyr Zelensky, and St. Nicholas is unfolding in Italy's Puglia region, where the Group of Seven will hold its annual summit later this week. A copper plaque near the Basilica of St. Nicholas in Bari, around an hour away from the summit site, has Putin's name and signature, and some residents want to see it removed, possibly by Zelensky himself, the New York Times reports.

  • "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," says local businessman Alessandro de Biase. "If it was down to me, I would bring Zelensky here himself and ask him for help to take down the plaque."

  • The plaque is a replica of a letter Putin sent to the city in 2003, along with a statue of St. Nicholas, the 4th-century Greek saint who inspired legends of Santa Claus. It pledges "friendship and cooperation" between the city and the Russian people.
  • This isn't the first push to have the plaque removed. After the 2022 invasion of Ukraine, more than 12,000 people signed a petition to have it removed, but Mayor Antonio Decaro said he was "not in favor of canceling a piece of history," ANSA reports.
  • Putin visited the city in 2007. He toured the crypt of the basilica, which holds relics of St. Nicholas, including bones, brought to Bari in the 11th century.
  • Father Giovanni Distante, the basilica's rector, tells the Times that the piazza where the plaque is located is the responsibility of the city, not the church. He calls the message on the plaque "a tangible sign of hope and universal brotherhood." He says the push to have it taken down is an "opinion expressed by private individuals which, however respectable, still remains a personal opinion."
  • Zelensky will be joining world leaders at the G7 summit, but Putin is not invited. The group was the G8 until 2014, when Russia was suspended after the invasion of Crimea.
(More Group of Seven stories.)

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