ST. PETERSBURG, Russia — President Vladimir Putin has reaffirmed that he considers Donald Trump a “bright” person and appreciates the Republican presidential candidate’s promise to turn a new page in U.S. relations with Russia.
Speaking Friday at Russia’s top economic forum, Putin said his country would work constructively with any candidate who wins the U.S. presidential election in the hope that the winner would strive for developing relations with Moscow and building a safer world.
Asked about his previous praise for Trump, Putin said that his description of Trump as a “bright” man stands. He added that he has noted Trump’s stated willingness to establish a full-fledged dialogue with Russia.
Putin dodged direct comment on Hillary Clinton, but spoke highly of Bill Clinton, saying he was grateful to the former president for his help.
Putin also called on European leaders to improve ties with his country, despite sanctions, after meeting with European investors who said they want to expand their businesses there.
“Politicians should meet the businessmen halfway, show wisdom, long-term thinking and flexibility,” Putin said. “We need to bring back trust to Russia-European relations and restore the level of cooperation.”
He said Russia doesn’t need a new Cold War.
The United States and the European Union imposed sanctions on Russia in 2014 after it annexed Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula and threw its backing to separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine.
However, as Putin was delivering his speech in St. Petersburg, the EU extended some of those sanctions for another year, including measures targeting imports from Crimea. On top of that, cruise ships from the EU cannot call at ports there, in an attempt to hurt the tourism industry.
When the EU first imposed sanctions two years ago, Moscow retaliated by banning imports of European meat, vegetable and dairy products, a blow to many of the bloc’s members.