Putin Speaks: Trump Is 'Absolute Leader' In Race; U.S. An Ally Against ISIS
Russian President Vladimir Putin says Russia and the United States can work together on a plan for Syria and defeating ISIS, saying the group "is posing a threat to everyone. So the sooner we do this, the sooner we settle the conflict, the better."
Speaking in a large auditorium at his annual year-end news conference, Putin added that the solution in Syria is a political one — and that in principle, Russia agrees with the American plan for the region. He also said Russia wants to improve relations with the U.S.
"In any case, whoever is [elected in the U.S.], we are ready and want to develop our relations with the United States," Putin said, according to state-run TASS media.
Update at 8:45 a.m. ET: Praising Donald Trump
"He is a bright and talented person without any doubt. He is the absolute leader of the presidential race," Putin says of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, adding that he welcomes Trump's statements about strengthening ties with Russia.
"That is none of our business to evaluate his accomplishments, but he remains the absolute front-runner in the presidential race. He is an outstanding and talented personality without any doubts," Putin said.
In July, Trump predicted that if he became president, he and Putin would get along "very well."
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Putin also had harsh words for America's ally, Turkey, over the shooting down of a Russian military jet, saying that he doesn't see relations with that country improving.
"We say that the action of the Turkish authorities in regard to our aircraft, which they downed, was not an act of unfriendliness, but an act of hostility," Putin said. He also faulted Turkey's leaders for "hiding behind NATO."
Here are more highlights from Putin's news conference, from the state-run TASS news agency:
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