Great Britain

Putin calls Trump ‘talented individual’ and laughs when asked if he’s a killer

Vladimir Putin called former President Donald Trump a “talented individual” but said he hoped President Joe Biden would not follow in his footsteps and be impulsive while in office.

The Russian president also laughed when asked whether he had committed several political assassinations and said Moscow's relationship with the US had reached a historic low.

“We have a bilateral relationship that has deteriorated to the lowest point in recent years,” Mr Putin said during an interview with Kier Simmons on NBC ahead of a summit with Mr Biden next week.

The meeting will be the first time he has met with a US president publicly since Mr Trump’s controversial meeting in Helsinki in 2018.

The former White House resident admired Mr Putin and defended him on several occasions, even when it meant siding against his own US intelligence agencies.

“Even now I believe former President Trump is an extraordinary individual, a talented individual. Otherwise he would not have become US president,” Mr Putin said when asked about his opinion of the former president.

He also called Mr Trump “colourful” and seemed to respect that he did not “come from the US establishment”.

“He had not been part of big time politics before and some like it, some don't like it, but that is a fact,” he said.

He contrasted Mr Trump's position as a relative outsider with that of the current president, a Capitol Hill lifer.

“President Biden, of course, is radically different from Trump because president Biden is a career man, he has spent virtually his entire adulthood in politics,” he said.

“Just think of the number of years he spent in the Senate. [He is] a different kind of person and it is my great hope that ... there will not be any impulse based movements on behalf of this sitting US president.”

Mr Putin was speaking ahead of a meeting with the US president on Wednesday which the White House expects to be “candid and straightforward”.

The White House incumbent said in March he agreed with deceased congressman John McCain that the Kremlin chief was a killer.

Mr Simmons raised with Mr Putin accusations that he has ordered the assassination of political rivals, asking: “Mr President: Are you a killer?”

Mr Putin chuckled in response, then began his evasive answer: “Over my tenure, I've gotten used to attacks from all different angles.”

He added: “This is not something I worry about,” before turning to suggest accusations against him by US politicians were made because of the influence of “macho” Hollywood culture.

Mr Simmons began to list the names of several people suspected to have been assassinated by the Russian state, including spy Alexander Litvinenko, who was poisoned in London in an operation British investigators found was “probably” ordered by Mr Putin.

The president again chuckled when asked if all the listed killings were coincidental. The host appeared to be suffering “verbal indigestion,” he said.

He also dismissed a report by The Washington Post that Russia was preparing to supply Iran with a satellite system that would grant officials greater ability to track potential military targets as “fake news”.

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