Former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi directly criticized his friend Vladimir Putin this weekend for Russia's attack on Ukraine, the first time he's done so since the war began.
"I will not hide the fact that I am deeply disappointed and saddened by the behaviour of Vladimir Putin," the 85-year-old media tycoon said in Rome on Saturday.
"I met him 20 years ago and he always seemed to me a man of common sense, a man of democracy and peace," Berlusconi told lawmakers at a convention of his conservative Forza Italia party.
In the early 2000s, when he was prime minister, Berlusconi said he had hoped that the Russians would turn towards Europe.
But the aggression in Ukraine is now driving the country "straight into the hands of China. It's a pity, it's a real pity."
'War crimes committed'
Berlusconi said after more than a month of armed conflict in Ukraine: "War crimes have been committed and Russia cannot deny its responsibility for them."
The two men were once close, with the Russian leader often speaking in defence of Berlusconi throughout his many and varied legal troubles.