Silvio Berlusconi, leader of Forza ItaliaHe is a close friend of Vladimir Putin. They have known each other for years and the Italian considers him “a little brother”. Both have shared hunts and parties. Also commercial and economic strategies. The owner of Mediaset, a member of the coalition that everything points to will govern Italy after Sunday’s elections, was the first Western president to travel to Crimea when it was annexed and was in charge of organizing the staging that would normalize the Russian leader with a rapprochement with the US in 2002. For this reason, many thought in Italy that it was only a matter of time before it ended putting hot towels on the Russian invasion of Ukraine. It happened on Thursday prime time, in the Rai 1 program Porta a Porta. “The troops had to enter, in a week to arrive in kyiv, replace the Zelensky government with a government of decent people and in a week to return. Instead, they encountered unforeseen resistance, which was fortified with weapons of all kinds coming from the West,” the candidate said.
Berlusconi was not content with those words and called the invasion a “special operation”. According to him, Putin “fell” into starting the war “because a mission of the two pro-Russian republics of Donbas they talked to everyone, to the newspapers, the television and the party ministers and they talked to him, saying that [el presidente ucranio, Volodímir] Zelensky had increased his forces’ attacks against them and their borders.”
Berlusconi’s statements have caused discomfort and concern in the European partners of the Italian right, who have rushed to distance themselves and underline their “unequivocal” support for Ukraine, reports from Brussels Silvia Ayuso. “The position of the EPP is unequivocal: we condemn Putin’s war of aggression against Ukraine. We will be on the side of the Ukrainian people until the war is won,” the European People’s Party (EPP) wrote on its official Twitter account.
The European formation – to which both the president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, and that of the European Parliament, Roberta Metsola, belong, both extremely critical of Putin and instigators of the sanctions, has also wanted to underline the “crystalline” support from Forza Italia, Berlusconi’s party, to “Ukraine in its fight against Russia’s illegal war”. Although the president of the EPP, the German Manfred Weber, has not commented on Berlusconi’s words, the formation’s general secretary, Thanasis Bakolas, has also been blunt: “The EPP has condemned the Russian invasion from day one. […] Any attempt to suggest something different is absurd. Period”, she has tweeted.
Berlusconi’s views are not new. Nor the endorsement of his friend. But during the campaign election had taken great care not to mitigate the aggression. An issue that is too sensitive and that Giorgia Meloni herself, leader of the far-right Brothers of Italy party and favorite in the polls to win Sunday’s elections, had assured that it would not be discussed. In addition, Berlusconi has presented Forza Italia, a decomposing party charged today with whitewashing the extreme right, as the guarantor that the commitments with the European Union and NATO will be fulfilled.
Berlusconi —or his advisers— realized the blunder the next day and tried to fix it by qualifying his position on the war: he assured that it is “unjustifiable and unacceptable”. “It was enough to see the entire interview, not just an extrapolated phrase, simplified later, to understand what my thought is, which has been known for a long time. The aggression against Ukraine is unjustifiable and unacceptable, the position of Forza Italia is clear: we will always be with the EU and NATO, ”he assured on his social networks. The problem is that his undisguised closeness to Putin is totally shared with the other coalition partner, Matteo Salvini. The leader of the League also advocates the withdrawal of sanctions and was even about to travel to Russia in July to mediate with the Kremlin.
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