Incoming Italian premier Meloni warns coalition partner Berlusconi over Putin ties

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ROME (AP) – Italy’s next prime minister, Giorgia Meloni, issued a stern warning to Silvio Berlusconi on Wednesday that he risked losing influence in any new government over his friendship with Russian President Vladimir Putin, as he sought a stronger Emphasis on pro-NATO, pro. -European position regarding Russia’s war in Ukraine.

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“Italy will never be the West’s weak link with us in government,” Meloni said in a statement late Wednesday.

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She was responding to personal comments by Berlusconi to her Forza Italia lawmakers this week, in which the three-time premier sought to re-establish contact with Putin and exchange gifts of vodka and wine on his recent 86th birthday. claimed, while justified Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. ,

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, Berlusconi’s centre-right Forza Italia party, the junior partner in Meloni’s right-wing coalition, is yearning for a foreign ministry. ,

“I’m reunited with President Putin – a little, a lot,” Berlusconi was heard saying in comments that were recorded and released by the LaPress news agency. “He sent me 20 bottles of vodka and a really sweet letter for my birthday. I replied with 20 bottles of Lambrusco and a similarly sweet letter.

Red wine Lambrusco – typically sweet and semi-sparkling – is produced in northern Italy.

Berlusconi says Russia’s Putin gifted him vodka, ‘sweet’ letter for his birthday

Berlusconi’s comments add to political turmoil in Italy as Meloni, whose far-right Brothers of Italy party won the most votes in the September 25 election, tries to form a cabinet. He is expected to receive a mandate to form Italy’s next government earlier this week.

Berlusconi’s centre-right Forza Italia party, the junior partner in his right-wing coalition, is gunning for the foreign ministry at a time when Meloni and the European Union strongly backed Ukraine in Russia’s war. Some analysts suggested that Berlusconi was deliberately trying to overthrow his future government.

Breaking a day’s silence, Meloni insisted she would lead a government with a clear foreign policy.

“Italy, whose head is held high, is part of Europe and [NATO] alliance,” she said. “Anyone who does not agree with this cornerstone cannot be part of the government at the cost of not having the government.”

Berlusconi has a longtime friendship with Putin: he has entertained the Russian leader at his villa in Sardinia and even visited Crimea with Putin in 2014 when the Russian leader annexed the peninsula from Ukraine. Had given.

After releasing the first audio recording on Tuesday about Berlusconi re-establishing contact with Putin over gifts and “sweet” birthday notes, LaPress published another recording on Wednesday, apparently from the same session, in which Berlusconi defended Putin’s decision to try to oust Ukrainian. government.

Berlusconi spoke outrageously about Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, accusing him of provoking conflict by escalating attacks on the eastern Donbass after 2014, when Russia-backed separatists began fighting Ukrainian troops. He said Putin’s “special campaign” in Ukraine to establish a “decent, sensible” government in Kyiv lasted just two weeks.

But thanks to the “unexpected and unexpected” Ukrainian resistance and funding and weapons from the West that “arrived on Day 3, a special operation that was supposed to last two weeks has become a war that will last almost more than 200 years, said Berlusconi.

He claimed that there was no “true leader” left in Europe or America.
European Commission spokeswoman, Nabila Masrali, said on Wednesday that EU nations are free to have bilateral contact with Moscow, while respecting EU policy that such ties are “necessary”. to the minimum”.

“The priority of these contacts should certainly convey the EU’s positions regarding illegitimate aggression and aggression against Ukraine and call on Russian counterparts to stop this immediately and comply with international law,” she said.

Vodka imports from Russia are banned, but Maserali said she would inquire about whether the ban also applies to gifts.

In previous comments, Berlusconi justified Russia’s invasion by saying that Putin was forced into eastern Ukraine’s Donbass region by pro-Moscow separatists – a similar scenario he portrayed in a recording published Wednesday.

“The troops had to enter, reach Kyiv within a week, change” [Ukrainian President Volodymyr] Zelensky’s government with decent people and then go away,” Berlusconi told his favorite late-night talk show host on September 22.

Berlusconi’s office at first tried to refute his comments about birthday vodka. In a statement on Tuesday, his office insisted he had not resumed relations with Putin and that Berlusconi “told lawmakers an old story about an incident that happened years ago.”

Hours after the audio was released, Berlusconi’s Forza Italia party tried to distance itself from the comments. “The position of Forza Italia and President Silvio Berlusconi with respect to the Ukrainian conflict and Russian responsibilities is known to all and is in line with the position in Europe and the United States,” the party said. “There is no margin of ambiguity, and never has been.”

Enrico Letta of the opposition Democratic Party, who warned that Meloni’s far-right coalition represented a threat to democracy, attacked Berlusconi’s comments, saying they undermined the credibility of any Meloni government. Is.

“Any government born in Europe today must choose whether it is with Putin or with Ukraine and the European Union,” Letta said. “The Meloni government is being born under the worst sign of obscurity.”

Meloni’s party moves to form Italy’s first far-right government since World War II

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