Ice to see you, Silvio Berlusconi...

  • @shaunwalker7

It was smiles all round as the former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi dropped in on Vladimir Putin for a spot of skiing and a banquet or two.

Mr Berlusconi side-stepped what was meant to be his first television interview since resigning from office in November to fly into Russia to spend some quality time with Mr Putin, who he counts as a close personal friend, and the outgoing Russian President Dmitry Medvedev at the Krasnaya Polyana ski resort in southern Russia.

Mr Putin changed from a bright red ski suit and aviator shades to his own personally branded "V.V. Putin" red jacket, while Mr Berlusconi wore an outfit emblazoned with the Russian flag and emblem. Russian television said the Italian was on a "private visit".

While Mr Putin has tetchy relations with most European leaders, he has always enjoyed a special camaraderie with Mr Berlusconi. In cables released by WikiLeaks, US diplomats referred to the Italian as Mr Putin's "mouthpiece" in Europe and claimed he "profited handsomely" in exchange.

The two leaders have had somewhat differing fortunes of late – Mr Putin has just won a new six-year term in the Kremlin, while the former Italian leader faces trial accused of sex with an underage prostitute and abuse of power.