By PATRICK REEVELL
MOSCOW — Dec 17, 2015, 8:29 AM ET
Russian President Vladimir Putin offered praise for GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump today, telling ABC News, "He's a very colorful person. Talented, without any doubt. But it's not our affair to determine his worthiness. That's up to the United States voters."
He added: "He wants to move to a different level of relations, to more solid, deeper relations with Russia. And how can Russia not welcome that? We welcome that."
Despite the apparent character recommendation, Putin did, however, seem to question Trump’s populist methods and often inflammatory statements.
“As for his internal political issues and his turns of speech which he uses to raise his popularity, I repeat, it’s not our job to judge them," Putin said.
Putin spoke to ABC News after his annual marathon news conference today, where he took questions from among hundreds of journalists for hours on issues ranging from his favorite historical figure to his plans for Syria.
Nearly 1,400 journalists packed into a Moscow auditorium to try and put a question to Putin, with many holding banners to attract the Russian leader’s attention, some with words like “Pensioners” or “I’m pregnant” written on them. The event usually continues for at least three hours -- the record is over four -- and is an occasion for Putin to express himself on Russia’s major foreign policy and domestic issues.
Putin spoke about the many foreign crises in which that Russia is entangled, commenting on Syria and Ukraine, as well as Russia’s relations with Turkey following the shooting down of a Russian bomber by Turkish jets last month.
On Syria, Putin said Russian military operations will continue until a political process begins. Earlier this week, Putin met with U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry to discuss finding a diplomatic situation to the war in Syria, with Kerry announcing then that Russia and the United States are moving “in the same direction.”
Putin echoed Kerry today, saying, “strange as it may seem,” the Russian and U.S. positions on Syria coincide on many basic points.
Putin often uses the occasion to speak colorfully and, on Turkey, he suggested that the Turkish government had shot down the Russian jet perhaps in order to please the United States, in his words, to “lick the U.S. in a certain place.”
He added he didn’t know whether the United States wanted to be licked or not, to loud laughter in the hall.
Putin also indulged himself when asked about the U.S. presidential elections. He declined to express an opinion, saying, “We won’t interfere, like they do with us.”
He said, however, “whoever the American people choose, we will work with.”
One of the more striking comments came when Putin was asked about the corruption scandal involving FIFA and its former chief Sepp Blatter. Putin said that Blatter, who stepped down amid allegations of financial misconduct under his administration, deserved a Nobel Peace Prize for his “colossal” humanitarian contribution.
Most questions tend to be on expected themes, for which Putin heavily prepares. And most answers are long monologues, with Putin often speaking in detail on specific projects, such as road taxes or Russia’s agricultural sector.
As the hours wore on, the journalists pressed harder to be chosen. As the conference approached its third hour, people waving their placards began to jump up and down, shouting their theme to Putin, who basked on the stage.