Zelensky jets to UK in first visit since Russian invasion
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Silvio Berlusconi has blamed Vladimir Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine on the Ukrainian President, as he argued Zelensky should have ceased to “attack” the republics of Donbass against Russian occupation.
The former Italian Prime Minister said he judges Zelensky’s behaviour “very negatively”.
Speaking in Milan, he said: “It would have been enough for him to stop attacking the two autonomous republics of Donbass and this war would not have happened. So I judge this gentleman’s behaviour very, very negatively.”
The Italian leader of Forza Italia, part of the coalition government led by Giorgia Meloni, also attacked his premier claiming he would have never engaged in talks with Zelenksy at last week’s European Council Summit in Brussels.
He said: “I would never have gone to talk to Zelensky if I had been the Prime Minister, because we are witnessing the devastation of his country and the massacre of its soldiers and civilians.”
This is not the first time Berlusconi, 86, and a long-time friend of Putin’s, has lashed out against the Ukrainian leader.
Last October, he said that Ukraine had sunk a 2014 peace deal that was designed to end a separatist war by Russian speakers in the eastern Ukraine regions of Donetsk and Luhansk.
Repeating accusations made by Putin that have been denied by Ukraine, Berlusconi said President Zelensky made the situation much worse when he came to power in 2019.
He also repeated an assertion that Putin had bowed to internal pressure and only invaded Ukraine to set up a new government “of decent people with common sense”.
Relations between Italy’s rightist coalition and Russia are being closely watched. Matteo Salvini, leader of the anti-immigrant League, has often praised Putin and used to don a T-shirt emblazoned with the Russian leader’s face.
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Last week, Giorgia Meloni complained she was not invited by French President Emmanuel Macron for a trilateral meeting with Zelensky in Paris, to which German Chancellor Olaf Scholz also participated.
Speaking to reporters the day following the meeting, in Brussels, she said: “Frankly, yesterday’s invitation [by Macron] to Zelensky seemed inappropriate to me.
“Because I believe that our strength in this matter is unity and compactness. And I understand the internal political issues and the need to give priority to one’s internal public opinions.
“But there are times when favouring one’s own internal public opinion risks going to the detriment of the cause, and this seems to me to be one of those cases.”
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The Ukrainian leader said Thursday that “a Ukraine that is winning” should become a European Union member, arguing the bloc wouldn’t be whole without his country being an integral part of the EU.
Zelensky made his comments during an address to the European Parliament on a rare trip outside Ukraine, which has been trying to repel a full-scale invasion by Russia for nearly a year.
The Brussels visit came as Russia intensified its attacks in eastern Ukraine amid signs that a major new offensive by Moscow was underway before the February 24 anniversary of the war.
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