Former Italian Prime Minster Silvio Berlusconi has died aged 86.

The controversial billionaire media mogul was admitted to a Milan hospital on Friday for what aides said were pre-planned tests related to his leukemia, AFP reports.

His admission came just three weeks after he was discharged following a six-week stay at Milan's San Raffaele hospital, during which time doctors revealed he had a rare type of blood cancer.

Berlusconi had suffered ill health for years, from heart surgery in 2016 to a 2020 hospitalisation for coronavirus. Despite being re-elected to the Senate last year, he was rarely seen in public.

On the world stage, Berlusconi was known for his friendships with the likes of Libya's Moamer Kadhafi and Russian President Vladimir Putin – the latter of whom he controversially defended following the 2022 full-scale invasion of Ukraine.


In September 2022, seven months after it began, Berlusconi suggested Putin – a long-time friend – had been "pushed" into the war by his entourage.

A month later, leaked recordings emerged in which Berlusconi described receiving 20 bottles of vodka from Putin for his birthday, adding that "I responded with bottles of Lambrusco (wine) and an equally sweet letter".

Berlusconi later blamed the war on Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

President Putin on Monday said the death of Silvio Berlusconi, one of his closest friends in the West, was an "irreparable loss" and hailed him as a "true friend."

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Matteo Salvini, Italy’s pro-Putin deputy prime minister, has once again attacked the French President’s suggestion that Western nations should be prepared to send troops to fight in Ukraine.

"For me Silvio was a cherished person and a true friend," Putin said in a telegram to the Italian president released by the Kremlin.

"His passing is an irreparable loss and a great sorrow."

The 70-year-old Russian leader said that he admired the Italian's wisdom and ability to make "far-sighted decisions even in the most difficult situations."

He praised Berlusconi's "incredible vitality, optimism and sense of humour."

In Russia, Putin said, he will be remembered as a "principled" supporter of strengthening ties with Italy.


"A true patriot, Silvio Berlusconi always put the interests of the Fatherland above all else," Putin added.

Berluscon had no time for traditional diplomacy, once likening a German European MP to a Nazi and describing US President Barack Obama as "suntanned."

His image was further tarnished when lurid details emerged of his sex parties at his villa near Milan with its private disco, during a hugely embarrassing trial involving a 17-year-old nightclub dancer.

Berlusconi was sentenced to seven years in prison in 2013 for paying for sex with Karima El-Mahroug, known as "Ruby the Heart Stealer" – but this was later overturned after the judge said there was reasonable doubt that he knew she was underage.

He then stood accused of bribing witnesses to lie about his parties, which he always insisted were elegant dinners.

He was acquitted in three related trials.

A relationship with another teenager led to the end of his second marriage with former actress Veronica Lario, who left him in 2009 over his "cavorting with minors."

In March 2022, he held a bizarre fake wedding with his girlfriend Marta Fascina, then 32.

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