Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is facing criticism over his comments about his relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin and the invasion of Ukraine.
The 86-year-old former Italian leader said he had “restored relations with President Putin,” according to an audio recording broadcast by Italian news agency La Presse this week.
Berlusconi says Putin sent him 20 bottles of vodka and a “very nice letter” on his birthday last month, and sent him a letter and some Italian sparkling wine, according to La Presse TV.
He went on to boast that Putin called him “the first of his five true friends”.
Secret recording: Berlusconi’s comments were surreptitiously picked up during a meeting of his Forza Italia party in the parliament hall on Tuesday, and his office confirmed to CNN on Thursday, while confirming the authenticity of audio clips released by La Presse.
Berlusconi, who will be Part of the next coalition government in ItalyPutin could be heard saying he 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.
Kyiv is accused of violating the 2014 treaty with Separatist-held areas of Donbas It says Russian-backed leaders in the region have asked Putin to defend them.
Berlusconi’s voice can be heard saying: “He (Putin) entered Ukraine and found himself in an unexpected and unexpected position of resistance from the Ukrainians, who started receiving money and weapons from the West on the third day (of the war).” “And the war, instead of being a two-week process, became a war of two centuries ago.”
In LaPresse’s voice, Berlusconi is also heard saying: “I don’t see how Putin and Zelensky can sit at a mediation table.
In defense of his remarks: Berlusconi defended his comments in an interview with Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera on Thursday.
“Everything was taken out of context. It was circulated without knowing the universal meaning of my words. With the only scope for spreading misinformation and lies,” he told the newspaper.
“I do not deny my country former friendship With Vladimir Putin, this led to important results that were achieved in full agreement with our Western allies … But today conditions have changed.”
Berlusconi went on to say that his comments “ended up condemning the Russian invasion and hoping for a negotiated solution that would put an end to this massacre and protect the rights of the Ukrainian people.”
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