Putin was ‘pushed’ into war in Ukraine, Italian Berlusconi says

Forza Italia leader Silvio Berlusconi speaks during the closing election campaign of the center-right coalition in Piazza del Popolo, ahead of the Sept. 25 general election in Rome, Italy, Sept. 22, 2022. REUTERS/Yara Nardi

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  • Russian Putin is an old friend of Berlusconi
  • Berlusconi’s right-wing bloc to win September 25 elections
  • Italian leader says Putin envisioned a quick war

ROME, Sept. 23 (Reuters) – Russian President Vladimir Putin was “pushed” to invade Ukraine and wanted “decent people” in charge of Kiev, former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has said just before Italy’s elections. criticism.

The Italian leader, whose Forza Italia party belongs to a right-wing coalition expected to win Sunday’s general election, is an old friend of Putin’s and his comments are likely to alarm Western allies. read more

“Putin was pressured by the Russian people, by his party, by his ministers to come up with this special operation,” Berlusconi told Italian public television RAI on Thursday, using the official Russian wording for the war. .

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Russia’s original plan was to capture Kiev “within a week” and replace democratically elected Ukrainian President Volodymir Zelenskiy with “a government of decent people” and leave “within a week”.

“I didn’t even understand why Russian troops spread across Ukraine when in my mind they should have just stayed around Kiev,” said Berlusconi, 85, who once described Putin as a younger brother.

Putin’s war goals varied during the seven-month war. Ukraine initially pushed its troops out of the Kiev area, and more recently from parts of the northeast near the border with Russia. Putin now says the main goal is to secure territory in Ukraine’s Donbas region, which is partially controlled by pro-Russian separatists. read more

Berlusconi faced widespread condemnation from opponents for his words and released a statement Friday saying his views were “too simple”.

“The aggression against Ukraine is unjustifiable and unacceptable, the position of (Forza Italia) is clear. We will always remain with the EU and NATO,” he said.

“TOTALLY EXTRAORDINARY”

Under outgoing Prime Minister Mario Draghi, Italy was a staunch supporter of Western sanctions against Russia after the invasion.

Giorgia Meloni of the far-right Brothers of Italy, tipped as the next prime minister, has pledged to stick to that position, but Berlusconi and her other League ally Matteo Salvini were more ambivalent.

“These are outrageous and very serious words,” said the leader of the center-left Democratic Party, Enrico Letta, of Berlusconi’s comments. “If the result is favorable for the right on Sunday evening, Putin would be the happiest person,” Letta said on RAI radio.

Centrist leader Carlo Calenda, another election candidate, told Radio24: “Yesterday Berlusconi spoke as a general of Putin. It is nothing short of scandalous.”

Berlusconi said on Thursday that Moscow’s decision to invade came in response to an appeal by pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine.

He said their leaders had gone to the Kremlin and told Putin directly, “Please defend us, because if you don’t defend us, we don’t know where we could end up.”

Voting began on Friday in four Ukrainian regions largely controlled by Russian forces, including the separatists, beginning a Putin plan to annex much of Ukraine. read more

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Reporting by Alvise Armellini; Editing by Frank Jack Daniel and Crispian Balmer

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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