Putin was urged to invade Ukraine

Dhe former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, founder and head of the Forza Italia party, caused a scandal shortly before the Italian parliamentary elections next Sunday with statements about the Ukraine war. Berlusconi, who has a longstanding friendship with the Russian President, said on public television Rai on Thursday evening, Wladimir Putin was pushed to invade Ukraine by the pro-Russian separatists in Donbass, who had put him “in a really difficult and dramatic situation” with their reports of continued Ukrainian attacks, by the Russian media and finally “by his people and his ministers”. . The aim of the "special operation" finally ordered by Putin - as Berlusconi put it literally - was "to reach Kyiv within a week, to replace the Zelenskyy government with a government of decent people and to withdraw again in another week".

Matthias Rub

Political correspondent for Italy, the Vatican, Albania and Malta based in Rome.

Instead, the Russian troops are in the Ukraine "met unexpected resistance, which was then bolstered by every imaginable type of western weapon". He also did not understand why the Russian troops were "spread out all over Ukraine"; instead, in his view, they should have "only been around Kyiv," said Berlusconi.

"We are beyond the imaginable"

Social Democratic party leader Enrico Letta described Berlusconi's statements as "scandalous" and continued: "We are beyond the imaginable with this. There are no words to comment on that. If the right-wingers win the parliamentary elections on Sunday, Putin would be the first to be happy.” The Social Democrats, meanwhile, are “always against the aggressor,” said Letta. Berlusconi's party joins forces with the former interior minister's right-wing populist League Matteo Salvini and Giorgia Meloni's post-fascist Brothers of Italy party in an electoral alliance. With a good twenty percentage points ahead of the Social Democrats, the centre-right alliance is the favorite to win the elections on Sunday in the latest polls.

Lega boss Salvini declined to comment on his ally Berlusconi's statements on Friday. "I don't want to interpret that," Salvini said on the radio. "I'm just saying that we will do everything we can to end the war when we are in government." Before the Ukraine war, "many had a positive attitude Putin, but now there can be no justification for an invasion, Salvini said. Of Giorgia Meloniwho supported the outgoing Prime Minister Mario Draghi in Ukraine policy from the beginning of the war and supported arms deliveries to Kyiv as well as sanctions against Moscow, there was initially no comment on Berlusconi's statements.

Berlusconi tried to calm things down on Friday. On Twitter, he complained that his statements had been "taken out of context". Anyone who watches the whole Rai interview recognizes his "long-known position" on the question: "Aggression against Ukraine is unacceptable and unjustifiable." He and his party Forza Italia are "always on the side of the EU and NATO,” Berlusconi assured.

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