Putin says ‘talented’ Trump is ‘absolute front-runner,’ welcomes pledge to work with Russia

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally in Mesa, Arizona, December 16, 2015. © Nancy Wiechec
Russian President Vladimir Putin has praised Donald Trump for wanting deeper ties with Moscow and described him as the “absolute front-runner in the presidential race.” Putin, however, said he was ready to work with whoever becomes the next US president.

"He is a very flamboyant man, very talented, no doubt about that... He is the absolute leader of the presidential race, as we see it today. He says that he wants to move to another level of relations, to a deeper level of relations with Russia. How can we not welcome that? Of course we welcome it," Putin said during his traditional end-of-year Q&A session with journalists.

The Russian president however refrained from commenting on Trump’s pre-election rhetoric. 

Everything that is related to “issues of internal politics – the rhetoric he uses for propping up his popularity,” are not a matter of concern to Russia. “It’s not our business to assess his work in this respect.” 

Earlier, in the same Q&A session, Putin had said he was prepared to work with whoever turns out to be victorious in the US presidential election in 2016. He added that despite the differences the two countries may have, they also share many common interests.

“We will work with any American head of state the American people elect. Our cooperation is not with a particular person but with a nation, a big and powerful international player,” the Russian president said in an interview on April 18.

While the majority of Democrat and Republican candidates have been laying into Russia, Trump has taken a different tone, saying he wants to work with Moscow if he is elected. 

“I think that I would probably get along with him very well,” Trump said of Putin in an October interview with CNN. “And I don't think you'd be having the kind of problems that you're having right now.” 

READ MORE: ‘Extraordinary person’ Donald Trump invited to visit Crimea – as US president

Trump has been a keen supporter of Russia’s bombing campaign in Syria, which started on September 30 following a formal request from Damascus. 

“I like that Putin is bombing the hell out of ISIS,” Trump said in October. “I'll tell you why. Putin has to get rid of ISIS 'cause Putin does not want ISIS coming into Russia,” he added.

Trump’s comments come in stark contrast to those of his fellow Republican presidential hopefuls. During Tuesday’s Republican debate in Las Vegas, Ohio Governor John Kasich showed ‘exemplary’ diplomatic language by saying: “Frankly, it’s time that we punched Russia in the nose.” 

Meanwhile former HP chief executive Carly Fiorina said she would “not speak to [Putin],” and would be prepared to “walk away.”