Silvio Berlusconi DEFENDS Putin's invasion of Ukraine and claims despot was 'pushed' into invasion

Silvio Berlusconi has sparked fury by claiming Vladimir Putin was 'pushed' into invading Ukraine and only wants to put 'decent people' in charge of Kyiv. The Italian

leader and former PM, whose Forza Italia party belongs to a right-wing coalition expected to win the general election on Sunday, is a long-time friend of Putin and his comments

are likely to alarm Western allies. 'Putin was pushed by the Russian people, by his party, by his ministers to come up with this special operation,' Berlusconi told Italian

public television RAI late on Thursday, using the official Russian wording for the war. Russia's plan was originally to conquer Kyiv 'in a week', and replace the

democratically elected Ukrainian President Volodymir Zelensky with 'a government of decent people' and get out 'in another week,' he said. 'I haven't even understood why

Russian troops spread around Ukraine while in my mind they should have only stuck around Kyiv', said the 85-year-old Berlusconi, who once described Putin as being like a younger

brother. Putin's stated war aims have varied during the seven-month war. Ukraine initially chased his troops from the Kyiv area, and more recently from parts of the

northeast near the Russia border.  Putin now says the main aim is to secure territory in Ukraine's Donbas region partly controlled by pro-Russia separatists. Facing

widespread condemnation from opponents for his words, Berlusconi released a statement on Friday saying his views had been 'oversimplified'. 'The aggression against Ukraine

is unjustifiable and unacceptable, (Forza Italia's) position is clear. We will always be with the EU and NATO,' he said.