|Vladimir Putin: ‘Trump’s a striking person. And well, isn’t he striking? Striking. I didn’t make any other kind of characterization about him.’ Photograph: Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images|
Vladimir Putin downplayed past comments about and spoke about the presidential election on Friday, adding that he accepted the US is probably the world’s sole superpower.
“America is a great power. Today, probably, the only superpower. We accept that,” the Russian president said at the St Petersburg International Economic Forum. “We want to and are ready to work with the United States.”
Alluding to US-EU on Russia in response to , he continued: “The world needs such strong nations, like the US. And we need them. But we don’t need them constantly getting mixed up in our affairs, instructing us how to live, preventing Europe from building a relationship with us.”
Asked about the presumptive Republican nominee for president, Putin again described Trump as a “flamboyant” or “colorful” man, using a Russian word – “” – that can be translated with ambiguous connotations, from gaudy to striking to dazzling.
“You see, it’s like I said,” Putin “Trump’s a colorful person. And well, isn’t he colorful? Colorful. I didn’t make any other kind of characterization about him.
“But here’s where I will pay close attention, and where I exactly welcome and where on the contrary I don’t see anything bad: Mr Trump has declared that he’s ready for the full restoration of Russian-American relations. Is there anything bad there? We all welcome this, don’t you?”
In December, months before Trump clinched the Republican nomination, Putin called him “, talented, without any doubt” and said: “It’s not our business to decide his merits, that’s for US voters, but he is absolutely the leader in the presidential race.”
Trump has for months misinterpreted Putin’s comments as “a great honor” and clear praise, rather than consider the various meanings of the word.
“When people call you brilliant, it’s always good, especially when the person heads up Russia,” he told MSNBC shortly after Putin’s original comments.
In May Trump falsely described the comments as a compliment of his intelligence. “They want me to disavow Putin,” he said. “Putin of Russia said Trump is a genius.”
Trump has proposed US-Russian cooperation regarding Syria, counter-terrorism and trade deals, and. The Kremlin and its allies have over 15 years , and the 2006 murder of has also been linked by activists to Putin’s Kremlin. Trump told ABC in December: “it’s never been proven that he killed anybody.”
The businessman’s top campaign aide, Paul Manafort, wasan adviser to Viktor Yanukovych, a pro-Kremlin Ukrainian politician who was after a 2014 revolution from office.
Putin also spoke carefully on Friday about the presumptive Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, saying he did not work much with her directly when she was secretary of state.
“She probably has her own view of US-Russian relations,” he said.
But he praised her husband, former president Bill Clinton, saying: “We had a very nice relationship.
“I can even say that I’m grateful to him for several moments, when I was making my entrance into world politics. On several occasions he showed signs of attention, respect to me personally and to Russia.”
The diplomatic remarks belie the cold and increasingly hostile relations between Clinton and Putin toward the end of her time in the Obama administration. In 2011, when he was prime minister of Russia and facing massive street protests, Putin . Clinton’s state department, he said, had sent a “signal” and “support” to opposition leaders.
On Friday Putin insisted Russia does not interfere in other nation’s affairs, and that the Kremlin would be glad to work with any leader elected abroad.
“We need to bring back trust to Russia-European relations and restore the level of cooperation,” he said.
Saturday 18 June 2016 17.49 BST