Femen activist dragged away and detained by police (Twitter)

Three topless members of the Femen radical feminist group attempted to jump on Italy's former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi as he arrived at a polling station in Milan to vote in the Italian general election on Sunday 24 February.

The young activists, who had the message "Basta Berlusconi" ("Enough with Berlusconi") written on their backs, were quickly held and dragged away by police. Law enforcement officials struggled to cover the women with their jackets as ordinary people queued to vote.

The feminists broke through a line of journalists and jumped over tables towards Berlusconi but failed to reach him.

The 76-year-old media mogul appeared calm and relaxed after the incident.

"It's an exaggeration. Those who think with their mind and intelligence can vote only in one direction and behave consequently," he told journalists. "Then, there are situations like this outside the boundaries of reason and we cannot do anything to avoid that."

Italians have started voting to choose a new government to succeed technocrat prime minister Mario Monti, appointed in November 2011 following Berlusconi's resignation at the height of a financial crisis.

Last month, in response to news that Pope Benedict XVI was to quit as head of the Catholic Church, nine Ukrainian members of the feminist group stripped to their knickers and bared their breasts in Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris, stunning bystanders.

The women, all aged under 40, displayed messages scrawled in pen across their cleavages and upper torso. Among the statements was "pope no more," "saved by the bell," and "bye bye Benedict".