Berlusconi slams Zelensky, threatening to fracture Italy's government coalition

 Rome- Silvio Berlusconi, Italy’s former prime minister and a longtime personal friend and business associate of Vladimir Putin, has criticised Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni for her support of Ukraine,  claiming that if he were currently head of government he would not have met with Ukrainian Prime Minister Vlodomir Zelensky.  The Forza Italia leader's remarks are sure to revive NATO allies' concern that Italy may waver in its support for Ukraine. 

 Berlusconi, 86, who has strong ties to Moscow and visited Russian-occupied Crimea after it was seized by Russian troops in 2014, condemned Zelensky, saying he had made "a negative judgement," on the heroic Ukrainian leader. Berlusconi also took a swipe at his coalition ally Meloni for having met with the Ukrainian leader claiming that: “If I had been the prime minister, I would never have gone to talk to Zelensky because we are witnessing the devastation of his country and the massacre of its soldiers and civilians."

 "It was enough for him to stop attacking the two autonomous republics of Donbass and this would not have happened, so I judge this gentleman's behavior very, very negatively.”

 The former prime minister then continued to criticize Zelensky’s character claiming that Zelensky’s motivations are stemmed in violence and greed when he said: “to get to peace I would think Mr. American President should take Zelensky and say to him: 'A Marshall Plan is at your disposal after the war is over to rebuild Ukraine. A Marshall plan of 6, 7, 8, 9 trillion dollars, on one condition: that you order a ceasefire tomorrow, also because starting tomorrow we will no longer give you dollars and we will no longer give you weapons." Further stating that only a sum of this magnitude could persuade Zelensky to cease fire.

 His comments were met with much appreciation from Moscow, which claims that Russia wants peace, with the Russian foreign minister Maria Zakharova saying that “Minsk accords be applied for peace in Ukraine. But this was not what the West had in mind.” Zakharova further accused Zelensky of having launched an anti-Russian advertisement campaign aiming to show the world that Russia is bad and Ukraine is good, further stating “it is a message that appears everywhere- from football matches to your Sanremo Festival. It's absolutely ridiculous”. 

 Despite these comments from both Berlusconi and Russia, the position taken by Palazzo Chigi remains unchanged. With sources from the Prime Minister’s office, saying that “The support for Ukraine by the Italian government is firm and convinced, as clearly foreseen in the program and as confirmed in all the parliamentary votes of the majority that supports the Executive.”

 Antonio Tajani, Italy’s foreign affairs minister, also commented shortly after Berlusconi’s rant, evidently distancing himself from his party boss, saying “Forza Italia has always been in favor of the independence of Ukraine, on the side of Europe, NATO and the West. In all the seats we will continue to vote with our government allies respecting our program.”

 Other members of Forza Italia attempted to salvage the situation by publishing a note reading “President Berlusconi's support for Ukraine has never been in doubt. He only expressed his concern to avoid the continuation of a massacre and a consequent serious escalation of the war, without ever failing in FI's adherence to the government majority, to the position of NATO, Europe, and the USA. Berlusconi has never named Putin, from whom he has repeatedly stressed that he was disappointed, he only explained that no one is exempt from responsibility.” 

 However, Berlusconi has recently spoken in soft tones about Moscow and has even gone so far as to recall his dear friendship with Putin, as well as attributing the war to Zelensky’s policy.

 These actions are heavily critiqued by opposition Parties members, with most opposition parties such as the Democratic Party, the Azione-Italia, Green Europe and the Greens and Left alliance, and Più Europa, who have all released individual statements. Opposition parties are condemning Berlusconi, expressing concern for Italy’s future relations with Europe and are demanding Meloni comment in person.