Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin yesterday made light of the sex scandals surrounding Italian PM Silvio Berlusconi, saying critics were simply jealous of his sexual prowess.

Best buds: Russian PM Vladimir Putin fondly spoke of Italian PM Silvio
Berlusconi and praised him for the way he had tightened the belt to
battle Italy's financial woes. File Pic/Getty Images

"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.

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 on 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. 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!" said Putin .

Berlusconi's harem revealed
* Italian actress Manuela Arcuri was allegedly promised the chance to host the annual San Remo musical festival in exchange for sleeping with Berlusconi, but turned down the offer.

* Others named in the list include Patrizia D'Addario, a self-confessed call girl, Ioanna Visan, a Romanian showgirl and underwear model Francesca Lana.

* Aspiring showgirls Sara Tommasi, Barbara Guerra and Barbara Montereale were also on the list.