With no irony in evidence**, Reuters reports as follows:
Vladimir Putin called Italy's Silvio Berlusconi a dear friend and an outstanding politician in a tribute to the former prime minister who died on Monday aged 86. "For me, Silvio was a dear person, a true friend. I have always sincerely admired his wisdom, his ability to make balanced, far-sighted decisions even in the most difficult situations," Putin said in a message of condolence. Berlusconi will be remembered in Russia as a "consistent and principled supporter of strengthening friendly relations between our countries", he said.
Well, well. Lots of fellow feeling in evidence there; (though "principled" seems a bit of a stretch). Maybe a suggestion of some significant personal, errr, interests in common? Perhaps Putin has lost a very dear friend indeed: in which case, our condolences.
There is some forensic analysis yet to see the light of day here, but I'm not sure you get much of that in Italy. Still ... just how did Putin become many commentators' candidate for the wealthiest man in the world?
They must think he's a financial genius.
** Then again, the report does go on to note: "Like former German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, Berlusconi cultivated close relations with Moscow during Putin's first years in the Kremlin from 2000 onwards." What could Reuters possibly mean by mentioning that?