Putin, Orban lead global tributes for Italy’s Silvio Berlusconi

Italian politicians, world leaders and sports figures remember the flamboyant figure, who has died at 86.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi
In this file image, then-Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi talks with then-Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin during a news conference at a summit at Villa Gernetto in Gerno, Italy [Alessandro Garofalo/Reuters]

Silvio Berlusconi, Italy’s former premier and business tycoon, has died in Milan at the age of 86.

Politicians, sports icons and world leaders are paying tribute to the flamboyant figure who transformed Italian politics and was widely known for his financial and sex scandals.

‘A true friend’: Russian President Vladimir Putin

Russian President Vladimir Putin described Berlusconi as a close and wise friend.

“For me, Silvio was a dear person, a true friend. I have always sincerely admired his wisdom, his ability to make balanced, far-sighted decisions even in the most difficult situations,” Putin said.

In October, according to a leaked recording, Berlusconi said he had reconnected with Putin, exchanging gifts of wine, vodka and “sweet” letters on his birthday.

On the Ukraine war, Berlusconi had suggested Kyiv was responsible for the invasion Russia launched in February 2022 and admonished Italian Prime Minister Georgia Meloni for meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

‘Great fighter’: Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban

Hungary’s populist prime minister, Viktor Orban, said in a tweet: “Gone is the great fighter.”

‘A man who was not afraid’: Italian Prime Minister Georgia Meloni

Italy’s premier bid adieu to Berlusconi in a video message, saying, “Berlusconi was above all a fighter.”

“He was a man who was not afraid to defend his convictions, and it was precisely that courage and determination that made him one of the most influential men in Italy’s history,” Meloni said.

‘Obviously tremendously significant’: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken

Speaking during a news conference with Italian foreign minister Antonio Tajani, US top diplomat Blinken said Berlusconi was “obviously tremendously significant figure in the life of Italy in the political life and the public life of the country”.

He added: “I simply want to extend my condolences to his family…but also to the Italian people for their loss.”

‘A great Italian’: Italian Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini

Matteo Salvini, Italy’s deputy prime minister, called Berlusconi “a great man and a great Italian”.

“Today a GREAT ITALIAN bids farewell to us. One of the greatest ever, in all fields, from all points of view, without equals. But above all, today I lose a great friend. I am devastated and I rarely cry, today is one of those days,” he said in a statement.

‘Many loved him, many hated him’: Ex-Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi

Matteo Renzi, former Italian premier and leader of the liberal political party Italia Viva, said in a tweet: “Silvio Berlusconi made history in this country. Many loved him, many hated him.”

“Everyone today must recognise that his impact on political but also economic, sporting and television life was unprecedented,” he added.

‘An era is over’: Italian Defence Minister Guido Crosetto

Italian Defence Minister Guido Crosetto said Berlusconi’s death “leaves a huge void because he was great”.

“An era is over, an era is closing,” he added.

‘An ironic, loyal, intelligent, sincere man’: Real Madrid manager Carlo Ancelotti

Carlo Ancelotti, manager of the Real Madrid football club, said: “Today’s sadness doesn’t erase the happy moments spent together. There remains infinite gratitude to the president, but above all to an ironic, loyal, intelligent, sincere man, fundamental in my adventure as a football player first, and then as a coach.”

Ancelotti won the Champions League as AC Milan’s coach when the club was owned by Berlusconi.

‘Will not be forgotten’: European Parliament President Roberta Metsola

Roberta Metsola, president of the European Parliament, referred to Berlusconi as “the fighter who led the centre-right and who was the protagonist of politics in Italy and Europe for generations”.

“Father, entrepreneur, MEP, Prime Minister, Senator. He left his mark and will not be forgotten.Thanks Silvio,” she said in a tweet.


‘Passionate politician’: Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said: “Italy has lost a great personality.”

“He was the first Italian prime minister I worked with, and I will remember him as a striking and passionate politician,” he said in a tweet.

‘A good friend’: Ex-Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Janša

A former prime minister of Slovenia, Janez Janša, paid his condolences to the Italian leader, referring to him as a “good friend to Slovenia”.

‘Unforgettable’: AC Milan

AC Milan, the football club Berlusconi owned from 1986 to 2017, said they were “deeply saddened” at losing the 86-year-old, describing him as “unforgettable”.

“Tomorrow, we will dream of new ambitions, create new challenges, and seek new victories. Which will represent the good, the strong, and the true that lies inside us, in all of us who shared this adventure of binding our lives to a dream called Milan,” the club said on Twitter.

‘Charming and engaging company’: Former NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen

Former NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen said that while they had their political differences, on a personal level, “he was always charming and engaging company.”

‘He led Italy in a time of political transition’: Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission

The European Commission’s chief said in a tweet: “He led Italy in a time of political transition and since then continued to shape his beloved country.”

Source: News Agencies