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“Many loved him, many hated him”

After his death, Berlusconi is recognized as one of Italy’s “most influential men”. International politicians also mourned the controversial ex-prime minister: he was a “true friend” for Kremlin boss Putin.

Internationally, high-ranking politicians paid tribute to the late Italian ex-Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. The incumbent Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, for example, described him as one of the most important protagonists in Italy in recent decades.

“He was a man who was never afraid to defend his convictions. That courage and determination made him one of the most influential men in Italian history,” she said in a video message. The former head of government was “above all a fighter”.

“Great Italian” and “Political Leader”

Together with Berlusconi’s conservative Forza Italia party and Matteo Salvini’s populist Lega, Meloni forms a right-right-centre coalition in Rome. “Today we say goodbye to a great Italian. One of the greatest of all time, in all areas, from all points of view, incomparable,” Salvini tweeted.

President Sergio Mattarella also reacted with deep sadness to the death of the 86-year-old. Berlusconi shaped the history of Italy – influenced ways of thinking, customs and language. His leadership style helped shape a new geography of Italian politics. Mattarella praised Berlusconi as “a person of great humanity” and “a successful entrepreneur”.

Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani, who will be breaking off his trip to the USA, wrote of “immense pain” after the death of his party leader.

recognition too opposition parties

Political rivals also recognized the achievements of the lifelong controversial politician and entrepreneur. “Silvio Berlusconi made history in this country,” said Matteo Renzi, former Social Democratic prime minister and now head of the center party Italia Viva. “Many loved him, many hated him.” But everyone has to acknowledge that his influence – for example on political and economic life – was unprecedented.

“An era ends with the death of Silvio Berlusconi,” said opposition leader Elly Schlein, leader of the Social Democrats. Berlusconi’s politics are far from her. But respect for “one of the protagonists of our country’s history” remains human.

Putin: “Silvio was a real friend”

The Kremlin also mourned the death of the former Italian prime minister. “For me, Silvio was a true friend,” Russian President Vladimir Putin wrote in his telegram of condolences to Italian President Sergio Mattarella. He always admired his foresight and balanced decisions and was infected by Berlusconi’s humor and joie de vivre when they met. His death was an “irreplaceable loss and a deep misfortune,” it said.

He described him as a “dear person”, “true friend

Silvio Berlusconi (r), then Italian Prime Minister, jokes with Vladimir Putin, President of Russia, before an informal dinner in a tent.

The former Italian prime minister was considered a close friend of Putin. They spent holidays together, went skiing together or had their picture taken with huge fur hats. The 86-year-old did not break off contact with Moscow even after the start of the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine. Last year, Berlusconi’s statement that Putin had been “pushed” by those around him to launch an offensive in Ukraine sparked outrage.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban also expressed his sympathy. “The great fighter is gone,” Orban wrote on Twitter. Hungary’s right-wing head of government is considered an ally of Italy’s government, which has been in office since October under ultra-right Prime Minister Meloni.

Sympathy also from Germany

Other heads of state and top politicians from abroad also expressed their condolences. The deputy spokesman for the federal government, Wolfgang Büchner, said in Berlin: “We express our condolences to the Italian people and the Italian government.” EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen wrote on Twitter that she was saddened by the news of his death. Berlusconi shaped his “beloved country”.

French President Emmanuel Macron described Berlusconi as a major figure in modern Italy who has always worked to strengthen relations between the two countries. A UK government spokesman in London said: “Silvio Berlusconi has been a major influence on Italian politics for several decades and our thoughts are with the Italian people and their family.”

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken made a similar statement. Berlusconi was “obviously an enormously important figure in Italian political and public life,” said Blinken at the meeting with his Italian colleague Tajani in Washington. He himself never had the opportunity to get to know Berlusconi personally or to work with him.

Pope: “Protagonist of Italian political life”

Pope Francis expressed his closeness to the Berlusconi family, prayed for eternal peace for the deceased and consolation for the mourners, it said in a telegram to Berlusconi’s daughter Maria Elvira. It was signed by Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin. It describes Berlusconi as a “protagonist of Italian political life, who carried public responsibility with an energetic temperament”. The Italian Bishops’ Conference also sent condolences to the daughter.

Berlusconi died in his hometown of Milan that morning, his spokesman said. Supporters applauded as the coffin containing the body arrived at his villa outside Milan, the AP news agency reports. The 86-year-old, who suffered from leukemia, was only admitted to a hospital in the northern Italian metropolis on Friday.

Berlusconi had shaped public life in Italy in various roles for decades – not only as head of government and party leader, but also as media mogul and long-time owner of football club AC Milan.

The Italian government has declared national mourning for Wednesday. Then the funeral service for the four-time Italian head of government should take place in Milan Cathedral. The Archdiocese confirmed the state funeral.

On the death of Silvio Berlusconi

Media mogul, prime minister, self-made man

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