Silvio Berlusconi Connections with Russia

Silvio Berlusconi was a politician who acted as the prime minister of Italy under four rules from 1994 to 1995, 2001 to 2006, and 2008 to 2011. Berlusconi was a member of the European Parliament from 2019 to 2022 and earlier from 1999 to 2001.  As leader of the Italian government, he preserved warm relations with Vladimir Putin and called the annexation of Crimea legal.

In October 2022, leaked audio recordings disclosed Berlusconi voicing dismay at Italy’s military support for Ukraine and condemning Volodymyr Zelenskyy for the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Berlusconi was among the most vocal proponents of closer relations between Russia and the EU. In an article posted in Italian media on 26 May 2002, he stated that the next stage in Russia’s growing integration with the West should be EU membership. Berlusconi had a warm connection with Vladimir Putin. The two leaders often characterized their relationship as a close friendship, continuing to arrange bilateral meetings even after Berlusconi’s resignation in November 2011

In November 2007, Italy’s state-owned energy corporation Eni signed an accord with Russian state-owned Gazprom to construct the South Stream pipeline. Investigating Italian parliament members uncovered that Central Energy Italian Gas Holding, a part of the Centrex Group, was to play a significant role in the lucrative agreement. Bruno Mentasti-Granelli, a close friend of Berlusconi’s, owned 33 percent of CEIGH. The Italian parliament barred the contract and charged Berlusconi with having a personal interest in the Eni-Gazprom agreement.

In 2008, Berlusconi provoked controversy at a joint press meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin. When a reporter from the Russian paper Nezavisimaya Gazeta asked a query about Putin’s relationships, Berlusconi pushed a gesture towards the journalist, imitating a gunman shooting.

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