Vladimir Putin hails 'talented' Donald Trump as race leader
President Vladimir Putin hailed Donald Trump as the "absolute leader" in the US presidential contest, praising the candidate's talk about building a deeper relationship with Russia.
The Republican candidate is "a very colourful character and talented," Mr Putin said after concluding his three-hour annual press conference in Moscow yesterday.
"He's the absolute leader in the presidential race," Putin said. "He's said that he wants to move to a new level of ties, closer and deeper ties with Russia. How couldn't we welcome that? Of course we welcome it."
Putin dodged a question about the abusive language and combative ploys that Trump uses to stay atop the polls, saying "it's not our place to judge his work".
Russia is ready to work with any new US president and willing to develop cooperation between the countries, Putin said during the news conference.
During the past two years, relations between the US and Russia have degenerated to their worst since the Cold War amid Putin's support for separatists in Ukraine, Russian accusations of Nato encroachment and disagreements over resolving Syria's civil war. Russian and US officials met today in New York as part of international talks on Syria.
Mr Putin also took the opportunity to unleash a furious tirade against Turkey using vulgar language to wonder aloud whether it had shot down a Russian warplane last month to curry favour with the US.
Addressing almost 1,400 reporters in a cavernous hall inside a Moscow conference centre, the Russian president dedicated a chunk of his annual news conference to spelling out why he saw no prospect of a rapprochement with Ankara.
"If someone in the Turkish leadership decided to lick the Americans in a particular place, I don't know whether they acted correctly or not and I don't know ... whether the Americans needed that," Mr Putin, said referring to the shooting-down.
He also said he could imagine a scenario where there was a deal for Turkey to shoot down a Russian plane in return for Washington turning a blind eye to Turkish troops entering Iraq.
Turkey's downing of a Russian SU-24 fighter bomber near the Syrian-Turkish border on November 24 prompted Putin to impose economic sanctions on Turkey who he claimed had stabbed Russia in the back.