Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has faced criticism for comments he made about his relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin and the invasion of Ukraine.
The 86-year-old former Italian leader said he had “re-established a relationship with President Putin,” according to audio released this week by Italian news agency La Press.
Putin sent him 20 bottles of vodka and a “very sweet letter” for his birthday last month, and Berlusconi sent back the letter and Italian sparkling wine, according to audio from LaPresse.
He went on to boast that Putin called him “the first of his five true friends.”
Secret recording: Berlusconi’s comments, which were secretly captured during a meeting of the Forza Italia party at the Capitol on Tuesday, were confirmed to CNN on Thursday by his office, confirming the authenticity of an audio clip released by LaPresse. confirmed the gender.
Berlusconi, who will be part of Italy’s incoming coalition government, can be heard saying Putin “against any initiative” in a war against Ukraine.
In the audio clip, an Italian politician can be heard talking to party members about what he believes led to the war.
He accuses Kyiv of violating a 2014 treaty with the separatist-controlled areas of Donbass, and says the region’s Russia-backed leaders have asked Putin to defend them.
“He (Putin) entered Ukraine and on the third day (of the war) faced a situation of unexpected and unpredictable resistance from Ukrainians who began receiving money and weapons from the West,” Berlusconi said. “And the war has become a two-century war instead of a two-week operation.”
In LaPresse audio, Berlusconi can also be heard saying:
Defending his statement: Berlusconi defended his comments in an interview with Italian daily Corriere della Sera on Thursday.
“Everything was taken out of context. It was circulated without knowing the global meaning of my words. There is only room for disinformation and lies to spread,” he told the newspaper.
“I do not deny my past friendship with Vladimir Putin, which has had important consequences and was achieved in full agreement with our Western allies … but today things have changed,” he said. I was.
The comments he made “condemned the Russian aggression and ended with the hope of a negotiated solution that would end this massacre and protect the rights of the Ukrainian people,” Berlusconi continued.