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MOSCOW — Russian President Vladimir Putin ranged from conflict zones to U.S. politics Thursday in a news conference that tried to close gaps with Washington over Syria, noted that Moscow remained engaged in Ukraine and gave a nod to Donald Trump as the “absolute leader” in the White House race.
“He’s a very lively man, talented without doubt,” Putin said according to the Interfax news service after the three-hour news conference. He added that Trump is the “absolute leader in the presidential race.”
“He’s saying he wants to go to another level of relations, closer, deeper relations with Russia,” Putin continued. “How can we not welcome that? Of course we welcome that.”
“You can make the case, if you look at Libya, look at what we did there — it's a mess — if you look at Saddam Hussein with Iraq, look what we did there — it's a mess — it's [Syria] going to be same thing," Trump said.
It’s not known whether any members of the Kremlin-run Russian news media physically injured themselves trying to rush Trump’s comments into print, but they were clearly in a hurry. Trump’s suggestion that murderous dictators Saddam Hussein, Moammar Qaddafi and Bashar al-Assad might best have been left in power is so at odds with current U.S. policy, and so in line with Putin’s worldview, that getting his comments into the public realm was plainly a high priority.
State-run Sputnik News (see above) quickly made Trump’s comments its main story.