Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday paid tribute to “a true friend,” Silvio Berlusconi, who died on Monday morning after a long and colorful career in Italian business and politics.
In a message of condolence to Italian President Sergio Mattarella published on the Kremlin website, Putin wrote: “Silvio Berlusconi will be remembered in Russia as a consistent and principled supporter of strengthening friendly relations between our countries. He made a truly invaluable personal contribution to the development of mutually beneficial Russian-Italian partnerships.”
Putin went on: “For me, Silvio was a dear person, a true friend. I have always sincerely admired his wisdom, his ability to make balanced, far-sighted decisions even in the most difficult situations. During each of our meetings, I was literally charged with his incredible vitality, optimism and sense of humor. His death is an irreparable loss and great sorrow.”
Berlusconi and Putin were longtime allies, and the former Italian prime minister stoked controversy earlier this year when he blamed Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy for Russia’s war.
During Italy’s election campaign last year, Berlusconi said he had “reconnected” with Putin — who is waging an all-out assault on Ukraine — and described himself as one of the Russian president’s “five real friends,” according to an audio recording published in Italian media.
Berlusconi “was rightfully considered the patriarch of Italian politics and enjoyed high international prestige,” Putin said Monday.