A Russian tourist visiting the city of Rome was given a suspended jail sentence yesterday by an Italian court for committing an act of vandalism. The resident of Moscow scrawled the words "This belongs to Mother Russia" on the ancient Colosseum.
The man, who is believed to be an off-duty Russian soldier, was subsequently deported from Italy. However, speaking from his apartment in Moscow, he strongly denied he had ever visited the Mediterranean country in his life, blaming any act of vandalism on the Ukrainian government.
The row escalated as the Russian Parliament considered a motion annexing the whole of Italy, to protect the interests of half a dozen Russian students who are studying architecture in Rome. President Putin announced that he would be sending a convoy of 100 aid trucks to help the students.
Western countries reacted swiftly to the development by denouncing "Russian aggression in the Mediterranean". President Obama cut the number of paper clips which the Russian embassy in Washington is allowed to have by 25% and threatened to reduce the limit on staples as well if Moscow doesn't change its policy. Chancellor Kohl also condemned Putin's policy but has refused to impose any embargoes on stationary, on the ground that it may unintentionally hurt the German economy.