Former Italian PM Silvio Berlusconi snubbed his once-favourite TV programme, Door to door, to have lunch with outgoing Russian president Medvedev and old friend Vladimir Putin, who takes over Medvedev's role after Sunday's contentious elections.

Berlusconi skipped his first planned television appearance to congratulate Putin at a café in the Krasnaya Polyana ski resort outside Sochi, host city of the 2014 Winter Olympics.

The 75-year-old media mogul has enjoyed warm relations with Putin and invited the Russian leader to his private villa in Sardinia in 2008.

Putin has long defended Berlusconi, who is controversial in his home country for different reasons. At a forum in September, Putin dismissed concerns over Italy's growing economic woes and then prime minister Berluscon's sex scandals, saying: "They mainly criticise him because they are jealous".

A new satirical play, to be launched in a Moscow theatre, imagines the outcome of half of Berlusconi's brain being transplanted into Putin's head.

BerlusPutin, based on Dario Fo's L'Anomalo Bicefalo (The Two-Headed Anomaly), shows Putin bare-chested, overdosing on Botox and eventually transforming into Dobby the house elf, a character from the Harry Potter's saga.