Italy and Russia have signed an agreement that gives Russia access to Italian energy markets and Italian companies access to Russian oil and gas deposits.

Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi and Russian President Vladimir Putin made the announcement on Tuesday following talks in Moscow.

Mr. Putin said such deals are possible with any country that is willing to engage in an equal partnership.

Russia signed a deal to supply Denmark with natural gas on Monday.

The European Union and the United States have been critical of Russia lately, saying Russia is seeking to gain complete control over some energy sectors. They have asked it to allow greater competition.

European countries are heavily dependent on natural gas from Russia and have expressed concerns that Russia may start using control over the fuel supply as a political weapon.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP.