President Vladimir Putin’s approval ratings in Italy and in other Western European countries have grown lately, which likely reflects Europeans’ reactions to Russia’s protection of the Syrian Christian population, said Andrea Gianotti, the director of the Italian Institute of Eurasian Studies.

Gianotti participated in the thirteenth international conference of the Foundation for the Unity of Orthodox Peoples, entitled “Values and Interests in a Changing World: a Christian Approach,” in Germany from March 27 to March 30.

The Italian expert noted that Western European governments have still not taken any steps to protect those suffering under the oppressive Islamic regime of ISIS in Iraq, Syria, and Libya, and have even in fact offered military support to the terrorists, who aim “to destroy every Christian trace in the specified territories.”

“By all appearances, the activity of the armed forces of the Russian Federation is the only concrete operation in protection of the Christian population of Syria and Iraq, although indirectly. The convergence of the strategic interests of the Kremlin with the interests of global security and the protection of Christians is quite obvious. Therefore, President Putin has become one of the most popular people in Italy and in other Western countries,” Gianotti stated.

“This political line should be a stimulus for many European leaders to establish close and honest cooperation with Russia against the challenges and threats towards Christianity, starting with the current ‘holocaust’ in the Middle East. This is a tragic ordeal,” the analyst affirmed.

The armed confrontation has been ongoing in Syria since March 2011. According to the UN, more than 220,000 people have been killed. Russia has been carrying out airstrikes on terrorist targets in Syria since September 30, 2015, by the request of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad. With Russia’s help, Damascus has been able to turn the tide and go on the defensive in many key areas. In March 2016, President Putin decided to withdraw most Russian troops, although Russia is still supporting Syrian with weapons, military equipment, and military training.