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POLITICS

Italy’s Berlusconi combative after hospital stays

Former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi said Sunday that he was doing better after repeated hospital stays in recent months and would remain active in politics.

Italy's Berlusconi combative after hospital stays
Former Italian PM Berlusconi. Photo: Piero CRUCIATTI / AFP

“Fortunately I’m doing better, but the doctors won’t let me take part in public events yet. Nevertheless, I promise to be with you soon,” the 84-year-old told a meeting of his Forza Italia party by phone, according to media reports.

Berlusconi’s four hospital stays this year – most recently in May – were prompted by complications from his coronavirus infection in 2020.

He spent several days in a Monaco hospital in January for a heart arrythmia, while in September he was treated for a lung infection linked to Covid-19.

But the billionaire media mogul insisted that “we are still moved by the love and civic passion for our country that we brought into politics 27 years ago, and with which we still look to the future”.

“I’m still in the game.. you know me, I’ve never let myself be discouraged by any kind of obstacle,” he added.

Berlusconi offered a slew of political proposals, including a merger between Forza Italia, the League led by Matteo Salvini and the Brothers of Italy (FDI) led by Giorgia Meloni into a single right-wing force at the next parliamentary elections.

While some observers have seen his grip on the party slackening given his age and health problems, he said that “whatever Forza Italia’s decision, it’s me that will take it in concert with our leadership”.

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POLITICS

Italy’s government to continue sending weapons to Ukraine in 2023

Italy's new government issued a decree on Thursday to continue sending weapons to Ukraine through 2023, continuing the previous administration's policy of support to Kyiv.

Italy's government to continue sending weapons to Ukraine in 2023

The decree extends to December 31, 2023 an existing authorisation for “the transfer of military means, materials and equipment to the government authorities of Ukraine,” according to a government statement.

Since taking office in October, Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni has repeatedly voiced her support for Kyiv while underlying the importance of the Atlantic alliance.

In her first speech to parliament, the leader of the Brothers of Italy party pledged to “continue to be a reliable partner of NATO in supporting Ukraine.”

Her predecessor Mario Draghi was a staunch supporter of Kyiv, but the issue of sending arms to Ukraine split the biggest party in parliament during his coalition government, the Five Star Movement.

That friction led to the early elections that brought Meloni to power.

Parliament now has 60 days to vote the decree into law.

READ ALSO: Outcry in Italy after Berlusconi defends Putin’s invasion of Ukraine

Despite Meloni’s efforts to reassure her Western allies of Italy’s support for the EU’s and NATO’s Ukraine strategy, including sanctions on Russia, the close ties to Russia of her two coalition partners have come under scrutiny.

Both Matteo Salvini of the League party and former premier Silvio Berlusconi, who leads Forza Italia, have long enjoyed warm relations with Russia.

In October, an audio tape of Berlusconi was leaked to the media in which the former premier described how he had received a birthday present of vodka from Russian President Vladimir Putin.

In the tape, he also expressed concerns about sending weapons and cash to Kyiv and appeared to blame the war on Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky.

Berlusconi later issued a statement saying his personal position on Ukraine “does not deviate” from that of Italy and the EU.

Since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, Salvini, too, has come under fire for his relations with Moscow, including a report that he dined with Russia’s ambassador to Rome just days after that country’s invasion of Ukraine.

Salvini, who has criticised EU sanctions as ineffective, has long admired Putin, even wearing T-shirts emblazoned with the Russian leader’s face.

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