Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who headed the government three times, died at the age of 86. This was reported by the Corriere Della Sera newspaper.
The politician suffered from chronic myelomonocytic leukemia and underwent chemotherapy. Berlusconi was then in the San Raffaele clinic in Milan for more than a month, and was hospitalized again on June 9.
Berlusconi was considered one of Vladimir Putin’s closest friends. He openly recognized Crimea as part of Russia and flew to the annexed peninsula in September 2015 for a private meeting with Putin.
After the start of the war in Ukraine, Italy’s former prime minister claimed he was disappointed in Putin. “I haven’t heard anything from Putin lately. We were very good friends, I made two phone calls at the beginning of this operation and received no answer”, Il Messaggero quoted Berlusconi as saying. At the same time, he continued to assert that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was to blame for the war. “All that had to be done was to stop attacking the two autonomous republics in Donbass, and that would not have happened. I have a very, very negative assessment of this gentleman’s behavior”, he stated.
Berlusconi made his debut in Italian politics at the age of 57, coming to it from business. In January 1994 he founded the party Forza Italia (“Forward, Italy!”) and just 60 days later together with it won the national parliamentary elections. The core of the party was made up of fans of the Milan soccer club.
Less than a year later, in January 1995, Berlusconi resigned. He became prime minister again in 2001 and remained at the head of government until 2006. Two years later Berlusconi’s party, which by then was already called “People of Freedom”, and its allies won a convincing victory in the 2008 elections. This time Berlusconi served as prime minister until November 2011. The politician’s most recent departure as prime minister was linked to a number of scandals. He was accused of malfeasance and financial fraud amid the economic crisis and the distrust of European stock exchanges in Italian sovereign debt obligations.
Berlusconi’s party remains a member of the ruling coalition, and the former prime minister himself has sat in the 19th Senate since last September. He was the first multibillionaire to head a European government: in 2005 Forbes estimated his fortune at $12 billion and he was the 25th richest man in the world.