(PresidentialInsider.com)- After more than two decades of friendship, family vacations, and similar political principles, Russian President Vladimir Putin and former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi appear to have ended their friendship. Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi says he is “deeply disappointed and saddened” by Russian President Vladimir Putin’s actions in Ukraine.
Rumors that the relationship was deteriorating were verified on Saturday at a Forza Italia conference in Rome when Berlusconi mentioned Putin for the first time since Russia invaded Ukraine in February.
85-year-old Berlusconi told the crowd that he could not hide from the reality of Vladimir Putin’s deeply disappointing behavior. He felt he was not the same person he met twenty years ago, a man who believed in democracy and peace. Now, their friendship can not withstand Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.
Berlusconi tried to call the Kremlin many times in the last month, only to be swiftly rejected, according to the Italian daily La Repubblica on Sunday. A far cry from the constant communication between the two leaders that Forza Italia member Giuliano Urbani recounted in 2001. But a lot has happened since the duo’s initial meeting in 2000.
Photographs of Berlusconi and Putin enjoying casual get-togethers and visiting Berlusconi’s opulent vacation villa on the island of Sardinia have grown commonplace over the years. For Putin’s 65th birthday, Berlusconi even presented him with a duvet featuring their likeness.
Putin has also hosted Berlusconi on multiple occasions. Berlusconi was the first western politician to be allowed into Putin’s Sochi house in 2002, and photographs of the two in fur ushanka hats in sub-zero temperatures in the town of Zavidovo were released in 2003.
Like Vladimir Putin, Berlusconi has his own set of scandals.
Berlusconi’s already tumultuous personal life took a turn for the worse in 2010 when local media reports claimed that an underage Moroccan girl had attended a “Bunga Bunga” sex party at his Italian villa. According to gossip, Putin attended two of them.
Berlusconi visited Putin in the Crimean port city of Sevastopol on the Black Sea five years later, not long after Russia’s takeover of the peninsula from Ukraine. They reportedly uncorked an absurdly expensive bottle of Spanish wine and Berlusconi exclaimed that in Crimea, the people thank Putin with tears in their eyes. After that comment, Ukraine banned the Italian leader from entering the country for three years.
Berlusconi and Putin have extensive financial ties, according to Wikileaks documents released in 2010. According to the cables, the US ambassador to Rome wrote that Berlusconi and his cronies were benefitting from energy transactions between Italy and Russia.
Perhaps Berlusconi will not dare to be seen in public with Putin ever again. But maybe his people are chatting with Putin’s people to keep in touch. They seem to have a lot of interests in common.