© Agence France-Presse
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin (left) and his Italian counterpart Silvio Berlusconi talk during a joint press conference at the Villa Gernetto in 2010. Putin has made light of the sex scandals surrounding Berlusconi, saying critics were simply jealous of his sexual prowess
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on Friday made light of the sex scandals surrounding Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi, saying critics were simply jealous of his sexual prowess.

"However much they nag Signor Berlusconi for his special attitude to the beautiful sex, and by the way they nag him mainly because of jealousy, he has shown himself as a responsible statesman," Putin said at an international investment forum in Sochi, quoted by the state RIA Novosti news agency.

He was speaking in praise of Berlusconi's financial belt-tightening to battle Italy's economic woes.

Berlusconi is facing charges of paying for sex with a 17-year-old girl and eight people were charged Thursday with procuring prostitutes for his parties in an attempt to curry favour.

Putin and Berlusconi have repeatedly talked of their close relationship and have visited each others' holiday residences.

Putin's comments go down well at home, but often cause shock abroad.

In 2006, he was overheard praising the then Israeli President Moshe Katsav who was at the time charged with multiple rapes, later to be convicted on two counts.

"He turned out to be a very mighty man! He raped 10 women. I would never have expected this from him. He surprised us all -- we all envy him!" Putin was quoted as saying in comments later described as a joke by the Kremlin.