Russia's Vladimir Putin met former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi in St. Petersburg, Russia, April 14, 2007. (Interpress, file/AP)As polls universally predict victory for Vladimir Putin in Russian presidential elections Sunday, a prominent Washington Russia scholar likened the once and likely future Russian president to Italy's disgraced former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, who was ousted from power last year during the European financial crisis.
"Putin is now moving into his 'Berlusconi phase,'" Fiona Hill, a Russia scholar at the Brookings Institution, said in an analysis prepared by the think tank and sent to journalists in advance of Sunday's polls.
"Like Putin in Russia, Berlusconi dominated Italian politics," Hill wrote. "Berlusconi's brand had been tarnished for a long time, but he was still the most popular individual politician in a fractious Italian political scene." Like Putin, Berlusconi "stifled the opposition...manipulated the media, [and] had mass protests against him. But none of the political opposition seemed to be capable of dislodging him from his perch."Read More »from Russian elections: Putin ‘moving into his Berlusconi phase,’ according to scholar