Berlusconi defends Putin’s ‘special operation’ to replace Zelensky
Putin's mobilisation plot is 'ill conceived' says Rupert Jones
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Just three days before Italians head to the polls to elect their new leader, Mr Berlusconi told Italian TV Putin was “pushed” by his people to “invent” a special operation with the mere aim of overthrowing Volodymyr Zelensky’s government. In what appeared to be a justification for the Russian leader’s plan, the Italian veteran politician said Putin wanted to install a new government in Ukraine made of “decent people”.
He told Porta a Porta: “Putin was pushed by the Russian population, by his party, by his ministers, to invent this ‘special operation’, as it was originally called, for which Russian troops had to enter Ukraine and reach Kyiv within a week, replace with a government of decent people the Zelensky government and after another week come back home.
“Instead they found unexpected and unpredictable resistance from Ukrainian troops which were then also forged with weapons of all kinds by the West.
“Now the war is over 200 days, the deaths are increasing every day and the situation in Ukraine has become very difficult to control because, and I don’t even understand why, Russian troops are scattered around the country.
“In my opinion they should have stopped at Kyiv.”
The stunning comments come as Mr Berlusconi put on a show of unity on Thursday with his right-wing allies Giorgia Meloni and Matteo Salvini, promising a new era of stable government at a closing rally in Rome.
The three leaders spoke from a stage bearing the slogan “Together, for Italy” in their first joint event in a campaign that has seen them lead in polls but also quarrel over foreign and economic policy.
“We will build a solid, cohesive government with a strong popular mandate, which will remain in power for five years”, said Ms Meloni, who could become Italy’s first female premier and the most right-wing one since World War Two.
Rome-born Meloni, whose party traces its roots to post-fascism but now presents itself as a mainstream conservative force, was playing to a home crowd overwhelmingly dominated by FdI fans.
In office, Ms Meloni would face daunting challenges including the threat of recession, inflation and spiking energy costs, on top of Italy’s historically high public debt.
Branded “Europe’s most dangerous woman” by German magazine Star, she has pledged prudent fiscal policies and to maintain unity with European Union and NATO partners in supporting Ukraine against Russia. But this has caused friction with allies.
Mr Salvini, a past admirer of Russian President Vladimir Putin, has openly criticised sanctions on Moscow, though he sees eye-to-eye with Ms Meloni on tough migration and border policies.
The League leader has also questioned Ms Meloni’s fiscal caution, calling for an extra €30 billion in public borrowing to fund measures against the energy crisis.
“The first act of the new government … will be an energy decree to immediately block increases in electricity and gas bills,” he said.
Mr Berlusconi, who rarely appears in public due to frail health, was the first to speak at the rally. He appeared to have trouble walking and was helped around by Salvini and others.
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“We are here, and we are the country’s real majority”, he said.
Before an embargo on polls came into force on September 10, the right-wing bloc was predicted to win around 46 percent of the vote, giving them a comfortable majority in both houses of parliament.
Pollsters still expect a right-wing victory on Sunday, but have warned that a surge in support for the left-leaning Five Star Movement (M5S), especially in the poorer south, might dent their lead.
The main rival to the right-wing bloc is a centre-left coalition, led by the Democratic Party, which two weeks ago polled under 30 percent; the M5S was on around 13 percent and the centrist Azione/Italia Viva bloc had about 7 percent.
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