‘All he had to do was to stop attacking the two autonomous republics of the Donbas and this would not have happened,’ ex-PM said.
Who’s responsible for the war in Ukraine? Not Vladimir Putin but Volodymyr Zelenskyy, according to former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.
“All [Zelenskyy] had to do was to stop attacking the two autonomous republics of the Donbas and this would not have happened,” Berlusconi told Italian media on Sunday evening after voting in Lombardy regional elections, which are set to be the first major political test for Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni’s rightwing coalition.
“I judge, very, very negatively the behavior of this gentleman,” Berlusconi added.
He went on to say the war could end if U.S. President Joe Biden
threatened to stop sending military and financial aid to Ukraine and asked Zelenskyy to order a ceasefire in exchange for a “Marshall Plan of six, seven, eight, nine billion dollars” to rebuild the country.
Berlusconi, who was prime minister for close to a decade, is now a senator and heads the conservative Forza Italia, which is a junior member of the governing coalition.
The 86-year-old has described Putin as one of his closest friends, and was among the few Western politicians on the Kremlin’s end-of-year greeting list.
In an interview with public broadcaster Rai last September, Berlusconi said the plan behind Russia’s attack on Ukraine was for Russian troops to enter “in a week to replace Zelenskyy’s government with a government of decent people.”
The Italian government reaffirmed its “firm and convinced” support for Ukraine, in a statement issued just an hour after Berlusconi’s comments, according to Italian wire ANSA.
Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani — a member of Forza Italia and a close Berlusconi ally — later said on Twitter his party had “always stood for the independence of Ukraine, on the side of Europe, NATO and the West.”
Asked about Meloni’s recent lashing out at France for not inviting her to a dinner with Zelenskyy in Paris, Berlusconi said he “would never have gone there to talk to Zelenskyy” if he had been in office.
Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to Zelenskyy’s office, said in response to Berlusconi’s comments that the former Italian PM is a “VIP agitator who acts within the framework of Russian propaganda, trades Italy’s reputation for his friendship with Putin. His words are damaging to Italy,” according to ANSA.