Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi is visiting Moscow for talks focusing on Russia-EU ties, which have been badly strained by the Ukrainian crisis.

Renzi told Russian President Vladimir Putin at the start of their talks Thursday that he would like to discuss Russia's relations with the European Union along with other issues, including violence in Libya.

Putin hailed an "active political dialogue" with Italy, and said that bilateral economic ties remained strong despite the damage inflicted by the EU sanctions over Ukraine.

Prior to the talks, Renzi laid flowers at the place where prominent Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov was shot dead on Friday night on a bridge near the Kremlin. Kremlin critics blamed the government, while Putin called the killing a provocation aimed at destabilizing Russia.