Putin, Berlusconi in Ukraine probe for drinking Crimea wine
Ukrainian prosecutors are reportedly preparing charges against the director of a winery in Russian-occupied Crimea for uncorking a 240-year-old bottle for Russian President Vladimir Putin and former Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi.
Moscow: Ukrainian prosecutors are reportedly preparing charges against the director of a winery in Russian-occupied Crimea for uncorking a 240-year-old bottle for Russian President Vladimir Putin and former Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi.
Putin and his old friend Berlusconi spent last weekend in Crimea, touring ancient ruins and visiting the peninsula's prized Massandra winery.
Massandra was Ukrainian government property before being nationalized by Russia, following its annexation of Crimea in 2014.
It has rare wine and sherry dating back more than 200 years in its collection; one bottle fetched nearly 32,000 British pounds in 2001.
Ukrainian media today quoted Ukrainian prosecutors responsible for Crimea as saying they are preparing to file embezzlement charges against the winery's director, who opened the valuable bottle for Berlusconi.
When the winery was Ukrainian property, two separate presidential decrees were required to approve the sale of vintage wine from its collection.
That means that under Ukrainian law, giving a bottle as a gift without Ukrainian presidential permission would amount to theft. The charges, however, would be moot since Russia currently has full control over Crimea.
Russian television last week showed Berlusconi carefully examining dust-covered bottles of wine while Putin listened to the winery director giving them a tour.
Later on, Berlusconi brought over a bottle to show to the party, and the director said: "The year 1891."
"Is it possible to drink?" Berlusconi asked in English. The director said "yes."
The Kiev-based prosecutor's office for Crimea was unavailable for comment today. Massandra director Yanina Pavlenko, who gave the tour last week, told The Associated Press on the phone that she showed the rare wines to Putin and Berlusconi but declined to comment on whether any wine was drunk during the visit.