Putin calls Berlusconi 'last of the Mohicans'
Russia's Vladimir Putin called his old friend Silvio Berlusconi's "one of the last Mohicans" on Friday who will be missed by Italy once he steps down as premier.
"I share good relations with Berlusconi," Russia's former and likely future president told a group of Western and Russian political analysts ahead of next month's parliamentary elections.
He referred to Berlusconi as "one of Europe's greatest politicians" and played down the sex scandals that plagued the closing chapters of his political career.
"Despite his scandalous manner with women, which I think he engages in on purpose, he is one of the last Mohicans in politics," Russia's current prime minister said of his friend.
Putin and Berlusconi became two of Europe's most dominant politicians of the past decade who exchanged regular visits to each other's government residences during summer breaks.
Rome's relations with Moscow blossomed under their leadership and such Italian giants as the energy firm ENI are now some of Europe's closest business partners of the Russian state.
Putin said Italians should be proud of having had Berlusconi as their leader.
"That he was in power was an undoubted good for Italy, it was a factor of their internal political stability," said Putin. "He is a very open person, he always said what he thought."
Berlusconi announced his resignation plans after failing to secure a parliamentary majority for a key budget vote this week that came as Italy hurtled toward economic crisis.
© 2011 AFP