In Italy, Giorgia Meloni wants to be the first woman in the history of the republic to be sworn into the highest government office on Sunday. However, this historical development is overshadowed by repeated recordings of former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s confidential speech to the parliamentarians of his Christian Democratic party Forza Italia at the end of last week. In the recently released recording, the 86-year-old politician and businessman claims that the leadership in Kyiv led by President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is responsible for the war in Ukraine, and provoked Russian President Vladimir Putin to invade the country with repeated attacks.
Annoyed, the designated prime minister Meloni now presented her disruptive ally Berlusconi with an ultimatum: “I intend to lead a government whose foreign policy is clear and unambiguous. Italy is a proud member of the EU and NATO. Anyone who does not agree with this cannot be part of this government. Even if that means that this government will not come into existence in the first place.”
In front of the parliamentarians of his party Forza Italia, who in the early parliamentary elections on September 25 behind Meloni’s right-wing conservative brothers in Italy with 26 percent of the votes and the right-wing national Lega of the former interior minister Matteo Salvini with almost nine percent with their own share of the vote of a good eight percent third strongest force in the centre-right alliance, Berlusconi explains according to the recording published by the news agency “LaPresse”: “Do you know how the thing with Russia happened? But I ask you for maximum secrecy.”
Berlusconi embarrasses Meloni
Berlusconi then lectures that, despite the 2014 Minsk peace agreement to settle the conflict over the eastern Ukrainian region of Donbass, the Kiev leadership around President Zelenskyy has “tripled” its attacks on the Russian-occupied areas in the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts. As a result, “the Donbass republics sent a delegation to Moscow and said to Putin: ‘Defend us!'” According to Berlusconi, Putin was against such an approach, but “under great pressure from the Russian people” his friend Putin finally said “Invented the special operation,” Berlusconi can be heard on the recording. According to Berlusconi, Putin’s plan was to overthrow the Zelenskyi government in Kyiv and to replace it with a “leadership of decent and reasonable people”.
Berlusconi had already spread this version of the cause of the Russian invasion of Ukraine in a television interview a few days before the new elections on September 25, which led to an outcry a month ago. After that, according to Berlusconi at the time, Putin’s plan was “to reach Kyiv in a week, to replace the Zelenskyy government with a government of decent people and to withdraw again in another week”. Instead, however, the Russian troops in Ukraine “encountered unexpected resistance, which was then backed up by every imaginable type of weapon from the West,” Berlusconi publicly declared on September 22.
He repeated this version behind closed doors in front of his party’s parliamentarians, who applauded audibly. The reason why “the special operation has turned into a 200-year war” is the support of Ukraine with weapons and money from the West – “a situation that Putin could not foresee”, as Berlusconi explains. The reason for the West’s failure in the Ukraine conflict, according to Berlusconi in front of the deputies and senators, is “that there are no real leaders in the West”. Berlusconi concludes by saying: “I can make you smile: the only real leader is me.”
“LaPresse” had already published excerpts of the recorded audio material on Tuesday. Berlusconi can be heard boasting about his particularly close relationship with Putin, with whom he has now “restored a little” the friendly relationship he had formed two decades ago after the radio silence over the Ukraine war. According to Putin himself, the Russian President counts him, Berlusconi, among “his five most important friends” and blessed him with “20 bottles of vodka and a kind letter” for his 86th birthday on September 29. Berlusconi said he showed his gratitude to Putin with the same number of bottles of Lambrusco and an “equally gracious letter”.
Berlusconi’s continued shows of friendship to Putin and the leadership in Moscow embarrassed not only the designated head of government Meloni, but also former President of the European Parliament Antonio Tajani. Tajani is deputy party leader of Forza Italia and is to take over the foreign ministry in the Meloni cabinet. Tajani tried to limit the damage on Thursday, assuring that his party had “always supported freedom and condemned the Russian invasion”.