Live Updates: Russia’s War in Ukraine
Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is being criticized for comments about his relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin and the invasion of Ukraine.
The 86-year-old former Italian leader said he had “reestablished relations with President Putin”, according to audio released this week by Italian news agency LaPresse.
Putin sent him 20 bottles of vodka and a “very sweet letter” on his birthday last month, Berlusconi says, and he sent back a letter and some Italian sparkling wine, according to LaPresse audio.
He went on to boast that Putin called him “the first of his five real friends”.
A secret recording: Berlusconi’s comments were surreptitiously captured during a meeting of his Forza Italia party in the parliamentary chamber on Tuesday, his office confirmed to CNN on Thursday, while confirming the authenticity of the audio clips published by LaPresse.
Berlusconi, who will be part of Italy’s new coalition government, can be heard saying that Putin “was against any initiative” for war against Ukraine.
In the audio clips, the Italian politician can be heard talking to members of his party about what he believes led to the war.
He accuses Kyiv of violating a 2014 treaty with separatist-controlled regions in the Donbass and claims Russian-backed leaders in the region have asked Putin to defend them.
“He (Putin) entered Ukraine and found himself faced with a situation of unexpected and unpredictable resistance from the Ukrainians, who began to receive money and weapons from the West from the third day ( of the war)”, we can then hear Berlusconi say. “And the war, instead of being a two-week operation, became a war of two centuries.”
In the LaPresse audio, Berlusconi is also heard saying, “I don’t see how Putin and Zelensky can sit at a mediation table.
Defending his words: Berlusconi defended his remarks in an interview with Italian daily Corriere della Sera on Thursday.
“Everything was taken out of context. It was broadcast without knowing the overall meaning of my words. With the sole possibility of spreading misinformation and lies,” he told the newspaper.
“I do not deny my past friendship with Vladimir Putin, which produced important results, which were achieved in full agreement with our Western allies… But today the circumstances have changed,” he said. .
His remarks “ended with condemnation of the Russian invasion and hope for a negotiated solution that would put an end to this massacre and protect the rights of the Ukrainian people”, Berlusconi continued.