A Russian visit. Silvio Berlusconi has been in treatment at the San Raffaele Hospital in Milan since early April. And as his health slowly improves, a rather peculiar news crew showed up in front of the building: a troupe from Rossija 24, an all-news channel owned by Russian State television VGTRK.
- The team, consisting of one journalist and one cameraman, arrived from Rome over the weekend. It’s reportedly producing documentation on the former prime minister’s story for a special, which is due to be aired in the coming weeks.
A pro-Russia track record. There is no mystery around Mr Berlusconi’s long-standing friendship with Russian President Vladimir Putin. This closeness actually landed him in hot water on several occasions since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, even as his party, Forza Italia, never flinched from the government’s line of support to Kyiv.
- Most recently, the former PM repeated Kremlin talking points, some critical of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
- And last year, leaked audio emerged of Mr Berlusconi recounting a “sweet” exchange of letters and liquor bottles with the Russian autocrat, who – he boasted – considers him one of his closest friends.
Keeping the myth alive. President Putin once revelled in the attentions that some Western leaders, including Mr Berlusconi and former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, showed him. It’s no coincidence that both appeared in the Russian leader’s New Year’s greetings list, where none of the current Western heads of State (other than Hungarian PM Viktor Orban, another sympathiser) appeared.
- As is customary for an autocratic regime, Russian state media usually pays great attention to high-profile figures who legitimise President Putin…
- … and that’s the likeliest reason for the Rossija 24 troupe travelling to Mr Berlusconi’s hospital in Milan.