Ukraine has banned Silvio Berlusconi from the country after the former Italian prime minister visited Crimea with his long-time friend, Russian President Vladimir Putin. The 78-year-old media tycoon will not be allowed into the country for three years under an order issued by the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU).
The SBU designated Berlusconi as persona non grata saying the measure was imposed to protect "national security interests". Berlusconi has been a vocal opponent of the West's isolationist policy against Russia, implemented in the wake of the annexation of Crimea and conflict in eastern Ukraine.
Earlier in September, in a show of solidarity with Putin, he toured the southern peninsula seized by Moscow from Kiev in March 2014. The pair have been friends since Berlusconi's time at the helm of the Italian government. Putin once famously hosted the Italian at his holiday home in Siberia, while Berlusconi returned the favour by having the Russian president's family over at his luxury villa in Sardinia.
The ban comes as Kiev made a hastily U-turn on a similar restriction against a number of Western reporters. President Petro Poroshenko's spokesman Svyatoslav Tsegolko tweeted that a number of British, German and Spanish journalists will be written off from a sanctions list issued on 16 September.
BBC correspondent Steve Rosenberg and producer Emma Wells, Russian cameraman Anton Chicherov, and Spanish correspondents Antonio Pampliega and Angel Sastre – who went missing in Syria in July and are believed to have been abducted by Islamist militants – were among more than 400 people that Poroshenko initially banned from the country with a decree targeting individuals "related to the annexation of Crimea and aggression in Donbas".
The document, which said they posed an unspecified "threat to national interests, national security, sovereignty or territorial integrity", triggered an international outcry. Nils Muiznieks, the commissioner for human rights of the Council of Europe, tweeted: