Global media is reporting that Italian politician Silvio Berlusconi has exchanged gifts and “sweet letters” with Russian President Vladimir Putin. According to an NBC news report:
October 19, 2022 ROME — Silvio Berlusconi, the former Italian leader who recently returned to front-line politics, has reconnected with his old friend Russian President Vladimir Putin with an exchange of gifts and “sweet” letters over his recent birthday. Berlusconi, a crucial kingmaker for a right-wing coalition that is seeking to form a government after having pledged to back Ukraine, was recorded boasting that the pair recently got back in touch. The comments prompted backlash from Brussels and from the woman set to be Italy’s next leader, who pledged her government would back Ukraine in a thinly veiled rebuke of Berlusconi. “I reconnected with President Putin — a little bit, well a lot,” Berlusconi, 86, reportedly said in a conversation with lawmakers from his center-right Forza Italia party, according to Italy’s LaPresse news agency, which published the comments. “For my birthday he sent me 20 bottles of vodka and a very sweet letter,” he said, adding that he responded by sending bottles of the Italian wine Lambrusco “and a letter just as sweet.” “I have been declared by him as the first of his five real friends,” he said.
Read the rest here.
The Global Influence Operations Report recently reported in June that a complex pro-Russian network is trying to influence public opinion in Italy, identifying some of the most important pro-Russian figures in the country. Other GIOR reporting on Russia’s influence in Italy has included:
- In May, we reported that pro-Russian media coverage in Italy had triggered the launch of a parliamentary inquiry to investigate whether some Russian commentators appearing on Italian TV networks could be on Putin’s payroll.
- In March, we reported on leaked emails and documents showing how Russian influence group Tsargrad is cooperating with Matteo Salvini, the former Italian deputy prime minister, interior minister, and current leader of the far-right Lega party.
- In February, we reported that Matteo Renzi, former prime minister of Italy, had resigned from the board of Russia’s largest car-sharing service following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.