Russian President Vladimir Putin was ‘pushed’ into invading Ukraine to put ‘honest people’ in charge, former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi controversially claimed, days before Italian general elections where his party could help form the new government.
The comments by Berlusconi – whose Forza Italia party belongs to a right-wing coalition that is expected to win Sunday’s legislative elections – are likely to alarm Western allies.
“Putin was pushed by the Russian people, by his party, by his ministers to come up with this special operation,” Berlusconi told Italian state television RAI on Thursday evening, using the official Russian wording of war.
Russia’s plan was originally to conquer Kyiv ‘in one week’, and replace democratically elected Ukrainian President Volodymir Zelenskiy with ‘a government of decent people’ and exit ‘in another week’, he said. -he says.
“I didn’t even understand why Russian troops scattered around Ukraine when in my mind they should have only stayed in Kyiv,” the 85-year-old said.
The reaction to the comments was immediate from political rivals, forcing Berlusconi into a partial descent.
“These are outrageous and very serious remarks,” said centre-left Democratic Party leader Enrico Letta. “If Sunday evening the result is favorable to the right, the happiest would be Putin.”
Centrist leader Carlo Calenda, another candidate in the elections, told Radio24: “Yesterday Berlusconi spoke like a General Putin. It’s totally outrageous.”
The veteran Italian politician released a statement on Friday saying his views had been “oversimplified.”
“The aggression against Ukraine is unjustifiable and unacceptable, the position (of Forza Italia) is clear. We will always be with the EU and NATO,” Berlusconi said.
He and Putin have been close friends in the past, with the Italian having described the Russian as a younger brother.
In 2015, he claimed that Putin was “without a doubt the No. 1 among world leaders”.
However, earlier this year Berlusconi said he was “deeply disappointed and saddened” by Putin’s actions.
Berlusconi’s Thursday comments highlight a potential crack in Italy’s right-wing coalition.
Under Prime Minister Mario Draghi, Italy has been a strong supporter of Western sanctions against Russia in response to its actions in Ukraine.
Giorgia Meloni of the far-right Brothers of Italy – tipped as Italy’s next leader – has pledged to stick to this position, but Berlusconi and his other ally Matteo Salvini have been more ambivalent.
The Independent Gt