Berlusconi says Russians ‘pushed’ Putin into war in Ukraine | Italy

Silvio Berlusconi, Italy’s three-time former prime minister whose party is expected to return to government after Sunday’s general election, sparked a row after he defended Russian President Vladimir Putin over the war in Ukraine.

The 85-year-old billionaire told Italian television that Putin, an old friend of his, was pressured into invading Ukraine by the Russian people and by ministers who wanted Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s administration replaced by ” decent people”.

Berlusconi, who condemned the war, told the Porta a Porta chat show that the separatists had gone to Moscow and told the media that the Ukraine attacks had left 16,000 dead and that Putin was doing nothing about it. defend them.

“Putin was pushed by the Russian population, by his party and by his ministers to invent this special operation,” Berlusconi said. “The troops were supposed to come in, reach Kyiv in a week, replace Zelenskiy’s government with decent people, and then leave. Instead, they found resistance, which was then fueled by weapons of all kinds from the west.

Berlusconi’s Forza Italia is the junior partner in a coalition led by Giorgia Meloni’s far-right Brothers of Italy and including Matteo Salvini’s League which is expected to comfortably win the election. Berlusconi is a candidate for the post of senator in the ballot.

During his tenure as prime minister, Berlusconi enjoyed a close relationship with Putin, praising his leadership and helping broker energy deals that some blame Italy for being so dependent on Russian gas today.

Forza Italia and the League supported sending arms to Ukraine when they were part of Mario Draghi’s broad coalition, which collapsed in July, as did the Italian Brothers. As a coalition, they promised to continue Italy’s support for Ukraine.

“The war lasted more than 200 days,” Berlusconi said. “The situation has become very difficult. I feel bad when I hear about the dead because I have always believed that war was the greatest madness.

Enrico Letta, the leader of the centre-left Democratic Party, said Berlusconi’s comments were outrageous and “legitimized Moscow”.

He said: “These comments demonstrate that in part of our electoral system, on the right but not only, there are those who, in essence, say: ‘Let’s stop this war, let’s give Putin what he wants.’ I find that unacceptable.”

Salvini has also maintained ties to Russia, has praised Putin in the past and criticized economic sanctions against the country over its war in Ukraine for “bringing Italy to its knees”.

theguardian Gt

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