Berlusconi thinks he's going to be Putin's next economy minister

Agence France-Presse
Vladimir Putin meets with former Italian Prime minister Silvio Berlusconi near Sochi on March 8, 2012.

Russian President Vladimir Putin wants to give Silvio Berlusconi Russian citizenship — and the job of economy minister — the disgraced Italian billionaire politician was quoted as saying Thursday.

"In Italy, I have been relegated to the sidelines, but Putin has told me he is willing to give me citizenship, and entrust me with running the economy ministry," La Stampa newspaper quoted him as saying at a dinner party.

"My future? Becoming minister for my friend Putin," the 78-year-old former Italian premier reportedly said.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, however, said that Putin's offer was more "figurative" than real and was merely a show of support for an old friend.

"Putin and Berlusconi share an old friendship. They keep in touch, and this is a true camaraderie," Peskov said.

"In this case ... it should be seen as figurative support rather than a formal offer to take some official post, which, of course, is impossible," he was quoted by Interfax news agency as saying.

The controversial Berlusconi has been hit by a string of legal woes, most recently being sentenced to three years this month for bribing a senator.

Earlier this year, he completed a community service order for corporate tax fraud but was cleared of having sex with an underage dancer known as Ruby the Heart-stealer after judges ruled he could not have known she was a minor.

Putin and Berlusconi are longstanding friends and during a visit to Rome by the Russian leader in June, the media tycoon pledged his Forza Italia party would work to lift sanctions on Russia.

They also spent a weekend in Russia's picturesque Altai mountains together.

Two years ago, France's larger-than-life actor Gerard Depardieu befriended Putin and was given a Russian passport after criticizing taxes on top earners in France.​