Mr Putin's sarcastic anti-Spanish outburst at a dinner on Friday with EU leaders in Lahti, Finland, was accompanied by criticisms of Italy's mafia problems.
His comments, first reported in the Guardian, made the front page of Spain's El País newspaper yesterday.
Mr Putin pointed to the southern resort town of Marbella, where the mayoress and former mayor have been jailed and thousands of illegal homes face demolition, as well as other Spanish corruption cases.
El País said the Spanish prime minister, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, had been "perplexed" by the comments. Italy's Romano Prodi had been left "without words" when Mr Putin pointed out that his country had invented the mafia concept, the newspaper said.
In a way, Russia's new "voice" towards Western European criticism is a positive for EU-Russian relations. Despite the support of Mediterranean EU chiefs like Jose Barroso, Javier Solana, and Romano Prodi, it has been my impression that EU-wide interest in the eastern flank of the country had more to do with fears of Polish plumbers than the EU-Russian relationship. Now EU citizens from as far away as Napoli and Marbella can indulge themselves in their very own "Putin experience."
From what I gather, with Schroeder gone, Putin's last ally in the EU is septegenarian Jacques Chirac. He was the one who advocated for a 'light touch' with regards to the Georgian-Russian issue. So perhaps we should all start thinking about the French presidential elections next year. The Chirac successor seems like a key piece of the puzzle in determining how the big players in Europe will react to Putinism, as does whomever succeeds Tony in the UK. The next two years should make for splendiferous blog postings.