Former Italian pm Berlusconi sparks row over Ukraine war

Former Italian pm Berlusconi sparks row over Ukraine war

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

The 85-year-old billionaire told Italian TV that Putin, an old friend of his, was pushed to invade Ukraine by Russian people and by ministers who wanted Volodymyr Zelenskiy's administration dissolved with decent people Berlusconi, who had condemned the war, told the media that Ukraine's attacks had caused 16,000 deaths and that Putin was doing nothing to defend them.

Putin was pushed by the Russian population, by his party and by his ministers to invent this special operation, Berlusconi said. They found resistance that was fed by arms of all kinds from the west. Berlusconi s Forza Italia is a junior partner in a coalition led by Giorgia Meloni's hard-right Brothers of Italy and including Matteo Salvini's League that is projected to win the election. Berlusconi is running for Senator in the ballot.

During his time as prime minister, Berlusconi nurtured close relations with Putin, praised his leadership and helped to forge energy deals that some blame for Italy being so dependent on Russian gas today.

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

Berlusconi said the war has lasted more than 200 days. The situation has become very difficult. I feel ill when I hear of the dead because I have always believed that war is the greatest madness of all. The leader of the centre-left Democratic party, Enrico Letta, said Berlusconi's remarks were scandalous and legitimised Moscow. He said that in part of our electoral system, there are those who, in short, say: Let s stop this war, let s give Putin what he wants. Salvini has also nurtured ties with Russia, heaped praise on Putin in the past and criticised economic sanctions against the country over its war in Ukraine for bringing Italy to its knees.