Rather than merely calling Vladimir Putin on the telephone to congratulate him on his March 4 election victory for a new term as president of Russia, Silvio Berlusconi hopped in his jet and headed for Sochi, the Russian resort town that will be the site for the 2014 Winter Olympics. The Italian billionaire and media mogul, who resigned his position as Italy’s prime minister last November, is embroiled in legal battles over charges of bribery, corruption, illegal wiretapping, and sex with an underage prostitute, but those concerns took back burner to his party time with Putin.
Producers of the top Italian television political discussion show Porta a Porta had scheduled Berlusconi for an interview about his resignation and the legal charges he faces, but he opted instead for an impromptu rendezvous with his Russian boon companion.
Whatever his legal troubles may be, it was all smiles as Berlusconi was photographed hugging his longtime pal Putin and current Russian President Dmitry Medvedev at the Krasnaya Polyvana ski resort. London’s Daily Mail featured a photo slide show of the trio on the slopes and dining at a café in Sochi.
Russia Today (RT.tv), the Kremlin-run Putin propaganda channel, also featured a video of the three amigos.
The Berlusconi/Putin relationship has been a source of speculation and gossip for years. Berlusconi has made many trips to Putin-land and the former KGB/FSB chief has reciprocated, visiting Berlusconi’s huge luxury estate in the exclusive Porto Cervo enclave on the island of Sardinia’s Emerald Coast. Putin has even sent his teenage daughters to vacation at Berlusconi’s villa, a move that certainly calls into question Putin’s parental wisdom, considering the 75-year-old Berlusconi’s notoriety for bacchanalian orgies (as widely reported, for instance, here, here, and here) with young women, known as his “Bunga-Bunga Parties.”
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Photo: Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, left, and former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi during their meeting in the resort of Krasnaya Polyana near the Black Sea resort of Sochi, southern Russia, March 8, 2012: AP Images