Former Italian PM Silvio Berlusconi dies at 86

FILE - Former Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi waves to reporters as he arrives at the Chamber of Deputies to meet Mario Draghi, in Rome, Feb. 9, 2021. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino, File)
By Thomas Brooke
3 Min Read

Silvio Berlusconi, the former Italian prime minister, has died at the age of 86, Italian media reported on Monday.

The Forza Italia founder and leader passed away following his readmission to the San Raffaele Hospital in Milan over the weekend.

He had only been released from the same hospital late last month after a six-week stint due to a lung infection and continued battle with leukemia.

The flamboyant billionaire media tycoon served as prime minister in four Italian governments, most recently up to 2011, and his right-wing populist Forza party is currently a junior partner in the coalition government led by Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni.

Italy’s Defense Minister Guido Crosetto confirmed the news on social media, describing Berlusconi’s death as a “great enormous pain.”

“He leaves a huge void because he was great. An era is over, an era is closing. I loved him very much. Goodbye, Silvio,” he tweeted.

Matteo Renzi, who served as Italian prime minister between 2014 and 2016, added that while Berlusconi had been a divisive politician, his character was second to none.

“Silvio Berlusconi made history in this country. Many loved him, many hated him: Everyone today must recognize that his impact on political but also economic, sporting and television life was unprecedented. Today, Italy mourns together with its family, its loved ones, its companies, its party.

“To all those who loved him, my most affectionate and most sincere embrace… We will miss you Pres, rest in peace.”

Lega leader Matteo Salvini honored his “friend” who he described as a “great Italian. One of the greatest ever, in all fields, from all points of view, without equal.”

“You have done so much for Italy and for the Italians, you leave a void that is difficult to fill. Starting today we will dedicate all our efforts and all our efforts to continue the thousand roads that you first saw and traced,” he added.

The proud Milanese politician dominated the Italian right for decades and remains the country’s longest-serving post-war prime minister.

His political career had not been without its drama, however, with Berlusconi the subject of several sex scandals and corruption allegations during his time. A close friend of Russian President Vladimir Putin, Berlusconi had spoken out in recent times against the Russian sanctions imposed by the European Union and was opposed to the West’s military assistance to Ukraine.

Aside from politics, Berlusconi built a substantial media empire and had been a passionate football fan, owning a controlling stake in his boyhood club, A.C. Milan, for over three decades.

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