Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said sex allegations against his Italian counterpart, Silvio Berlusconi, who is on trial for paying for sex with a minor, were made “out of envy.”
“As much as people have attacked Silvio Berlusconi for his special relationship with the fair sex, mostly out of envy I believe, he has behaved like a responsible political leader in this acute situation,” Putin said at a forum in the Black Sea resort of Sochi today, referring to Italy’s debt crisis.
Berlusconi’s government, scrambling to contain a surge in Italian borrowing costs, won final parliamentary approval this week for its second austerity plan since July, a 54 billion-euro ($74 billion) package of spending cuts and tax increases. The premier’s popularity fell to a record low of 24 percent, a poll published Sept. 15 showed.
A guest at Putin’s private birthday bash last October, the Italian prime minister has boasted of his close personal ties with his Russian counterpart, who has visited Berlusconi’s villa in Sardinia. The Italian media in 2009 published reports of parties at the Sardinian villa and other residences with dozens of young women.
Berlusconi’s dinner parties at the center of a prostitution investigation were “convivial affairs” and prosecutors’ allegations about the events are “unfounded,” two of the premier’s lawyers said today.
Prosecutors in the southern city of Bari are investigating local businessman Gianpaolo Tarantini, who they suspect of paying young women to attend parties with Berlusconi. Berlusconi hasn’t been charged in the case and has denied ever paying for sex.
The Italian prime minister is on trial over his ties, and possible payments, to Karima El Mahroug, a Moroccan woman known as Ruby Heart Stealer. She says she attended at least one party at the prime minister’s mansion near Milan in February 2010, when she was 17.
Putin earlier this year praised Russian female journalism students who posed topless and wearing lingerie for an “erotic” calendar to honor his birthday, telling model Naomi Campbell that they were “courageous,” according to an interview published in British GQ magazine.
Putin, 58, described as an “alpha dog” in U.S. embassy cables posted by WikiLeaks.org, is often shown on state television as an action man in close proximity to animals including whales, tigers and bears.