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Former Italian PM Silvio Berlusconi dies at 86

Silvio Berlusconi
Image credit – Ministry of the Presidency. Government of Spain. Public Domain.

The politician passed away at Milan’s San Raffaele hospital on Monday, according to reports.

Former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi has died at the age of 86.

Berlusconi had been admitted to San Raffaele hospital in Milan on Friday, and the Corriere della Sera newspaper later described his condition as “very serious.”

According to broadcaster RAI, the children of the Forza Italia party leader had arrived at the hospital shortly before reports of his death emerged on Monday.

Berlusconi, who had been diagnosed with leukemia, was previously hospitalized in April with breathing problems and spent 45 days being treated for a lung infection. At the time, doctors had described his cancer as “not acute.”

Berlusconi served as Italy’s prime minister in four governments between 1994 and 1995, 2001 and 2006, and from 2008 to 2011, making him the country’s longest-serving premier since the dictator Benito Mussolini.

A prominent media tycoon, Berlusconi founded the Mediaset television group and owned AC Milan football club from 1986 until 2017.

Berlusconi went on trial more than 30 times during his political and business career for alleged crimes ranging from abuse of office, defamation and links to the mafia.

Earlier this year, the former premier was acquitted in the so-called “Ruby” trial, launched on suspicion that he had bribed witnesses in a previous case stemming from allegations that he had paid for sex with an underage prostitute – a case in which Berlusconi was initially found not guilty back in 2014.

Berlusconi was barred from holding public office in 2013 after being sentenced to four years in prison for tax fraud. The ban was lifted in 2018, and he became a member of the European Parliament (MEP) a year later.

The veteran politician announced his electoral comeback in Italy last year, winning a Senate seat in September following the collapse of Mario Draghi’s government.

Berlusconi’s Forza Italia party claimed 45 seats in the snap election, running as part of a center-right coalition with the Brothers of Italy party of current Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, Lega Nord (Northern League), and Us Moderates.

Despite being part of Meloni’s ruling alliance, Berlusconi harshly criticized the premier’s pro-Kiev stance in the conflict between Russia and Ukraine. He blamed the outbreak of the fighting on Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky and repeatedly called for Moscow and Kiev to agree to a ceasefire, while offering to play the role of a mediator.

“An era is over,” Italian Defense Minister Guido Crosetto said of Berlusconi’s passing. His death has left a “huge void,” he wrote in a tweet, adding that he “loved” the former prime minister “very much.”

The leader of the Lega Nord party, Matteo Salvini, said “a great Italian decided to say goodbye to us,” and asked for a minute’s silence to mark his passing.

Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed his condolences following Berlusconi’s death, describing him as “a true patriot” who made a significant contribution to Italy’s social and economic development, while also strengthening the country’s stance in the EU and globally.

“For me, Silvio was a dear person, a true friend. I have always sincerely enjoyed his wisdom,” the Russian president wrote.

In Russia, Berlusconi will be remembered as a consistent proponent of improving relations between Moscow and Rome, Putin said. “He made a truly invaluable personal contribution to the development of mutually beneficial Russian-Italian ties,” he added.

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Source:RT News

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