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6 Apr, 2023 11:52

Berlusconi diagnosed with leukemia

The former Italian prime minister was admitted to a Milan hospital on Wednesday after experiencing difficulty breathing
Berlusconi diagnosed with leukemia

Silvio Berlusconi, a prime minister in four Italian governments and one of the country's most dominant business and political figures, has been diagnosed with leukemia and admitted to intensive care, his doctors confirmed on Thursday. The 86-year-old was hospitalized in Milan on Wednesday after complaining of breathing problems.

“Silvio Berlusconi is currently in intensive care to treat a lung infection,” a statement released by his medical team at Milan’s San Raffaele Hospital said on Thursday, via the ANSA news agency. They also confirmed that he had been diagnosed with chronic myelomonocytic leukemia, which has contributed to the lung condition.

“The infectious event is framed in the context of a chronic blood condition of which he has been a bearer for some time,” it added. The medical team, which is headed by Berlusconi’s personal physician Alberto Zangrillo, said a “therapeutic strategy” would be implemented to limit the “negative effects” of his condition.

“Berlusconi spent a quiet night, his condition is stable,” Italian Deputy Prime Minister Antonio Tajani, who also serves as foreign minister, told RAI television earlier on Thursday. “We all want to be optimistic and we hope that the lion will return soon to take charge of the party. He’s our political leader and of course he never gives up.”

Berlusconi heads the Forza Italia party, which forms part of the right-wing coalition led by Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, although he does not have a role in government.

The former prime minister began a course of chemotherapy on Wednesday, the ANSA news agency reported, adding that he remains in a stable condition as of Thursday.

The Forza Italia Party released a statement also on Thursday emphasizing that Berlusconi had called for “maximum commitment” in parliament following his hospitalization.

The often-controversial Berlusconi has been a semi-permanent fixture in Italian politics for decades. He served as prime minister from 1994 to 1995, 2001 to 2006, and 2008 to 2011. He was suspended from politics for six years after a tax fraud conviction, but returned to Italy’s senate last year following national elections.

The former media mogul has faced several scandals throughout his tenure at the summit of Italy’s legislature. He has been on trial more than 30 times for alleged crimes ranging from abuse of office, defamation, and association with the mafia.

In 2011, he was investigated for allegedly having sex with an underage prostitute at one of his notorious ‘bunga bunga’ parties, but was later acquitted after a judge found that Berlusconi was unaware that the girl was underage. Berlusconi denied the claims against him.

Outside of politics, Berlusconi is known for his work in building Italy’s largest television network, as well as his former ownership of soccer team AC Milan. He has suffered various health problems in recent years, requiring heart surgery in 2016 as well as contracting prostate cancer. He was diagnosed with Covid-19 in 2020, which resulted in several hospital visits.