Berlusconi: “Deeply disappointed by Putin’s behavior”
Dhe former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who always boasted about his friendship with Vladimir Putin, has clearly distanced himself from the Russian President for the first time since the beginning of the Ukraine war: “I don’t want to hide the fact that I am deeply disappointed and saddened by Vladimir’s behavior Putin, who has taken on a very serious responsibility before the whole world,” said the 85-year-old politician in Rome on Saturday. “War crimes were committed and Russia cannot deny its responsibility for them.” So far, Berlusconi had avoided naming Putin in connection with the Ukraine war and condemning him as an aggressor.
“I met him 20 years ago and he always struck me as a man of common sense, a man of democracy and peace,” Berlusconi said in a speech to Forza Italia MPs in Rome. At the beginning of the millennium, when he was prime minister, he still hoped that the Russians would turn to Europe. But the aggression in Ukraine is now driving the country straight “into the hands of China. It’s a shame, it’s really a shame.”
As Italian Prime Minister, Berlusconi maintained a demonstratively close relationship with Putin. At Putin’s invitation, he spent a vacation in Sochi on the Black Sea. In return, he received Putin at his estate in Sardinia. During the Russian-Georgian war in August 2008, Berlusconi spoke out against EU sanctions against Moscow and warned against an “anti-Russian front”.
When Putin visited Rome in June 2015, Berlusconi promised his party Forza Italia that he would work to have sanctions imposed following the Russian occupation of Crimea lifted. Berlusconi also initiated business relations between the semi-state energy company Eni and the Russian company Gazprom.
Most recently, in August 2019, Berlusconi gave a dinner in honor of Putin. Putin praised his longtime friend Berlusconi, who had recently been elected to the European Parliament, as a “world-class politician” and a “true leader”. For his part, Berlusconi has been infatuated with Putin for years, with whom he says he has “a real, personal friendship.”