Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is a sleazebag of epic proportions, a corrupt leader whose name has become synonymous with amorality and thuggish governance. His career produced some good journalism, notably this GQ profile which contains perhaps the best kicker of the year. But, via Michael Scherer, this anecdote is another level of horrifying.
At one of their most memorable appearances together, in Moscow, in 2008, a Russian journalist named Natalia Melikova asked [Russian President Vladimir 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.
Horrendous. Putin shut down a newspaper that reported on his affair a few hours later.
-- Tim Fernholz