Italy’s Silvio Berlusconi said he exchanged letters and gifts with Russian President Vladimir Putin, according to audio obtained by a Italian newswire, highlighting that the country’s new governing coalition may be under pressure from within to reduce its support for Ukraine.
“Putin sent me 20 bottles of vodka and a very sweet letter for my birthday,” Berlusconi, 86, said in an audio recording of remarks made at a meeting with the founders. France, published online by Italian newspaper LaPresse on Tuesday. It does not say when the recording was made, although Berlusconi’s birthday is September 29.
Berlusconi’s words add to the concerns of the right-wing leader, Giorgia Meloni, who is negotiating cabinet posts with Berlusconi and other allies following the bloc’s victory in elections last month. , facing internal pressure soften her stance on Russia.
In remarks on national television on Tuesday, Speaker of the House of Representatives Lorenzo Fontana said that sanctions against Russia could be a “boomerang”. Fontana, a member of the League party, another key ally of Meloni, is known for her pro-Russian views. Meloni said she supports sending aid and weapons to Ukraine.
Berlusconi, a former prime minister and leader of the Forza Italia party, said he had sent Putin an “equally sweet letter” and bottles of Lambrusco wine. Berlusconi also said he was “very, very, very concerned” about statements by Russian ministers that “we go to war with them because we supply Ukraine with arms and finance”.
Although Meloni has not officially commented on Berlusconi’s words, according to Corriere della Sera, she complains that they will make her life more difficult.
A Forza Italia spokesman denied Berlusconi had reconnected with Putin, saying he was “telling lawmakers an old story about an episode from a few years ago”. In the tape, Berlusconi mentions Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Berlusconi’s party also released a statement saying Berlusconi’s stance on Ukraine was “known to all and in line with” those of Europe and the US. That stance “has been reiterated on numerous public occasions. There is not and never has been any space for ambiguity”.
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