The head of a Crimean winery is to be prosecuted in Ukraine for allegedly opening a 240-year-old bottle for Russian President Vladimir Putin and former Italian PM Silvio Berlusconi.
Vladimir Putin and Silvio Berlusconi spent last weekend in Crimea touring ancient ruins.
Prosecutors say they drank at Crimea’s renowned Massandra winery.
Massandra was Ukrainian government property before Russia’s annexation of Crimea in March 2014.
Russian media cited by Radio Free Europe reported that Silvio Berlusconi asked if he could sample the wine during a tour of Massandra.
A witness said Massandra’s new pro-Russian director Yanina Pavlenko in response uncorked a precious bottle of 1775 Jeres de la Frontera for her prestigious guests. The Spanish wine was brought to Crimea by Count Mikhail Vorontsov, during the reign of Catherine the Great.
Russian television last week showed Silvio Berlusconi carefully surveying dust-covered bottles of wine while Vladimir Putin listened to Yanina Pavlenko as she gave them the tour.
Later, Silvio Berlusconi is seen looking at a bottle identified to be from the vintage of 1891, and asked in English: “Is it possible to drink?”
Yanina Pavlenko replied: “Yes.”
It is unclear what happened to that bottle, but Ukrainian prosecutors say the bottle they are concentrating on was worth more than $90,000. They say they are preparing embezzlement charges against Yanina Pavlenko.
“This is one of the five bottles that constitute not only Massandra’s or Crimea’s heritage, but the heritage of all Ukrainian people,” Nazar Kholodnytsky, first deputy prosecutor for Crimea told the Associated Press in Kiev.
He said two bottles similar to the one allegedly consumed were auctioned in London in 2001 and one fetched nearly $49,700 (€44,000).
“The funds went to the state coffers and supported the development of Massandra and wine-making in Crimea,” Nazar Kholodnytsky said.
Yanina Pavlenko’s predecessor as governor, Nikolay Boyko, was dismissed in February after Russian prosecutors filed fraud charges against him.
The new governor is herself wanted in Ukraine for treason after she voted in favor of Russian annexation in 2014.
“Now she’s added one more crime to high treason,” Nazar Kholodnytsky said.
Prince Lev Golitsyn started the first winery in Crimea in 1894, and since then its wines have been celebrated in the Soviet Union and Russia. The Massandra wine cellars hold about 500,000 bottles, including 5 bottles of the 1775 Jeres de la Frontera.
Vladimir Putin and Silvio Berlusconi enjoyed good personal relations when the Italian leader was in power, which they have maintained since he left office in 2011.