The former Italian PM reportedly blamed Kiev for inciting conflict with Russia, putting the would-be ruling coalition in doubt.
Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has reportedly claimed that Kiev triggered a conflict with Russia by reneging on a peace plan for eastern Ukraine, a tape provided to the media suggests. In an apparent response to the leak, Giorgia Meloni, who has been tasked with forming a new Italian government, stated that people who do not share a pro-NATO stance would have no place in her coalition.
Speaking to members of his Forza Italia party on Tuesday, Berlusconi reportedly offered a viewpoint about the origin of the Ukraine crisis that clashed with the NATO-favored narrative of unprovoked Russian aggression against its neighbor.
Italy is an important member of the US-led alliance and anyone who disagrees with this position will be excluded from government, Meloni, the leader of the Brothers of Italy party, pledged on Wednesday evening, as quoted by the newspaper La Repubblica.
In the audio clip, Berlusconi can be heard accusing Kiev of failing for years to uphold a peace deal with the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics. When Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky came to power in 2019, he “tripled down” on attacking the regions, the politician stated.
Donetsk and Lugansk asked for Moscow’s protection, he continued. Russian President Vladimir Putin sent troops into Ukraine in the hope that Zelensky would be overthrown and replaced with “good people of common sense” within a couple of weeks, Berlusconi claimed. The wording resembles what he told the Italian public broadcaster RAI after the September election.
During this week’s meeting, Berlusconi allegedly suggested that the conflict in Ukraine could last for over “200 years,” after the country unexpectedly resisted Russia and received money and arms from Western nations to continue the fighting.
In another part of the recording, which was published by the LaPresse news agency, Berlusconi claimed to have received a crate of vodka and a “nice letter” from Putin for his birthday. He added that he responded by sending Lambrusco wine to the Russian leader. After the clip was released, the former prime minister’s party claimed he had been referring to historical contacts with Putin and not recent events.
Berlusconi, a three-time former leader of the Italian government, has a long record of friendly relations with Putin, which stretched beyond his tenure as prime minister. His participation in the right-wing coalition has resulted in claims that the country could make a foreign policy U-turn and oppose the US-led anti-Russian campaign under Meloni. She repeatedly pledged her support for the EU and NATO after winning the election.