Former Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi has blamed Ukraine’s president for Russia’s invasion, again putting him at odds with Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni’s support for Kyiv.
Mr Berlusconi, whose Forza Italia party is part of Ms Meloni’s right-wing coalition government, is a long-time friend and ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
He said the war in Ukraine “would have never happened” had Volodymyr Zelensky “ceased attacking the two autonomous republics of Donbas”.
He also criticised Ms Meloni for meeting the Ukrainian leader, telling reporters on Sunday that he would not have done the same if he was premier.
The comments drew a quick rebuttal from Ms Meloni’s office, which said that “the government’s support for Ukraine is solid and unwavering”.
Her office said support for Ukraine is clear in both government policy and in parliament, manifesting itself in weapons deliveries to Ukrainian forces.
Ms Meloni met Mr Zelensky on the sidelines of a summit in Brussels last week, and she plans to travel to Ukraine before the anniversary of the February 24 invasion by Russia.
The last warning came after Mr Berlusconi boasted of having re-established contact with Mr Putin and exchanged gifts of vodka and wine on his 86th birthday in September.
In his latest remarks, Mr Berlusconi said US President Joe Biden could help bring an end to the fighting by offering Mr Zelensky trillions of dollars in rebuilding funds, similar to the Marshall Plan that rebuilt Europe after the Second World War.
“Only something like that will convince this gentleman to agree to a ceasefire,” he said.