Russian President Vladimir Putin has been “pushed” into the war against Ukraine to install a new government in Kiev, former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said late on Thursday, in remarks that should worry him. western allies before Italy’s election.
Berlusconi, whose Forza Italia party belongs to a right-wing coalition set to win Sunday’s general elections, is not new to defending Putin’s actions in Ukraine. His comments highlight cracks in the coalition over the war.
Berlusconi, a personal friend of the Russian leader, played down Putin’s warmongering instincts after he threatened to use nuclear weapons after suffering setbacks in Ukraine.
“Putin was pressured by the Russian people, by his party, by his ministers to invent this special operation,” Berlusconi said, using official Russian wording for the war.
Under Prime Minister Mario Draghi, Italy has been a staunch supporter of Western sanctions on Russia in response to its actions in Ukraine.
Giorgia Meloni, of the far-right Brothers of Italy, touted as the next prime minister, has vowed to stick to that position, but Berlusconi and his other ally Matteo Salvini have been more ambivalent.
Russia’s plan was originally to conquer Kiev “in a week”, replace Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky with “a government of decent people” and leave “in another week”, he added.
“I didn’t even understand why Russian troops spread out across Ukraine when in my mind they should have just stayed in Kiev,” Berlusconi insisted.
Putin’s stated war aims varied during the seven months of war. Ukraine initially pursued its troops from the Kiev area and more recently from the northeast near the Russian border. Putin now says the main objective is to secure territory in Ukraine’s Donbass region, partly controlled by pro-Russian separatists.
Speaking on Italian public television RAI, Berlusconi suggested that Moscow’s decision to invade came in response to an appeal by separatists.
He said its leaders went to the Kremlin and told Putin directly: “Please defend us, because if you don’t defend us, we don’t know where we might end up.”
After Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014, Berlusconi said he visited the peninsula with Putin and saw locals thank the Russian leader.
Source: CNN Brasil