Silvio Berlusconi, A Small Man

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This tidbit comes by way of the Daily Beast, in a story about the Italian prime minister’s friendship with Vladamir Putin of Russia:

At one of their most memorable appearances together, in Moscow, in 2008, a Russian journalist named Natalia Melikova asked Putin about his apparent marital trouble and rumored romance with the young and indecently plastic gymnast-cum-parliamentarian Alina Kabaeva. When asked about the liaison, Putin’s face hardened. “There is not a word of truth in this story,” he said. Berlusconi, giggling, regarded the exchange. When Putin had finished answering, Berlusconi cocked his hands, and, imitating a gun, fired with a silent “Pow! Pow!” at Melikova. It had only been a year and a half since Anna Politkovskaya, an investigative journalist, had been shot in her Moscow elevator, and Melikova was reduced to tears. On the dais, Berlusconi laughed, and Putin nodded.

You can find pictures of the offensive gesture here. Video here. (The press conference took place in Italy, not Moscow.) A few hours later, the Russian newspaper that originally alleged the extramarital affair by Putin was shut down by the Russian authorities.

To quote again the great, late, Nobel Prize winning writer, Jose Saramago, writing about Italian leader: “This thing, this illness, this virus threatens to become the cause of the moral death of Verdi’s country. If a deep vomit doesn’t succeed in ejecting it from the consciousness of Italians, the poison will end up corroding the veins and destroying the heart of one of Europe’s richest cultures. The basic values of human coexistence are trampled daily by the viscous feet of the Berlusconi thing.”

TIME’s Moscow reporter, Simon Shuster, weighs in today with a piece about Putin’s reaction to the latest WikiLeaks release. It is worth a read.