MOSCOW, Sept. 9 (UPI) -- Former disgraced Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is coming to Russia on a private visit on Thursday to meet with President Vladimir Putin.
The two men are planning to discuss the crises in Ukraine and Syria, reported Russia Beyond the Headlines.
The Russian government confirmed the news of Berlusconi's visit. "Yes, as far as I know, Silvio Berlusconi will come for a private visit to Russia for a few days. We don't rule out that in the next few days a personal meeting between Berlusconi and Russian President Putin may take place," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists on Wednesday.
Putin and Berlusconi have maintained friendly relations despite the former Italian premier's fall from grace following a series of scandals. Berlusconi, who served three times as Prime Minister of Italy, was convicted of tax fraud by the final appeals court in August 2013. Two months prior, he was sentenced to seven years in prison for having sex with an underage prostitute and for abuse of power.
Berlusconi was exempted from direct imprisonment because of his age, and instead was sentenced to unpaid social community work.
Berlusconi has been among the most vocal supporters of closer ties between Russia and the European Union.
In September 2014, Berlusconi accused the United States, NATO and EU of "a ridiculously and irresponsibly sanctioning approach to the Russian Federation, which cannot but defend Ukrainian citizens of Russian origin that it considers brothers."