MILAN - Italy's Eni has signed a deal to increase gas supplies from the Congo Republic by more than 4.5 billion cubic metres (bcm) a year, the energy group said on Thursday.

The deal is the latest Italian move to reduce dependence on Russian gas, with Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio and Ecology Transition Minister Roberto Cingolani leading an Italian delegation to Angola and the Congo Republic this week to line up LNG contracts.

Italy obtains 40% of its gas imports from Russia and has been looking to diversify its energy sources since Russia's invasion of Ukraine triggered Western sanctions that have raised the threat of disruption to supplies.

Under Eni's agreement, development of a liquefied natural gas (LNG) project involving Eni will be stepped up so that production can begin in 2023.

(Reporting by Stephen Jewkes Editing by David Goodman )