MOSCOW (AFP) - Russian President Vladimir Putin (Dec 17) on Thursday described US Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump as a talented and outstanding man, welcoming his stance on Russia.
"He is a very outstanding man, unquestionably talented," Putin told journalists after his annual press conference in Moscow.
"It's not up to us to judge his virtue, that is up to US voters, but he is the absolute leader of the presidential race," Putin added.
Putin said Russia is ready to work with the United States no matter who is elected president next year.
"We are ready to work with any president chosen by the American people."
Trump, a tycoon and onetime reality television star who has unexpectedly become leader of the Republican presidential candidates' race, has been gaining both fans and enemies recently for his inflammatory remarks against Muslims.
He has vowed to ban all Muslims from entering the United States if he succeeds in his bid to become the next US president.
British Prime Minister David Cameron on Wednesday called Trump's comments "divisive, stupid and wrong." Putin said that Trump's comments to his domestic audience while on the campaign trail were not Russia's concern, but added that he likes the Republican hopeful's statements on Russia.
"On domestic politics, his manner of speaking, what he employs to raise his popularity" - that is none of Russia's business, Putin said. "It's not our concern to evaluate his work." Some of Trump's statements on Putin are apparently music to the Russian president's ear.
"He says that he wants a different level of relations, tighter and deeper relations with Russia, how can we not welcome that? Of course we welcome it," Putin said.
Trump was asked Wednesday what he would do to get Russia's military presence out of Syria, and answered that he would first get Putin's respect.
"I will get along - I think - with Putin, and I will get along with others, and we will have a much more stable - stable world," Trump said. "I would talk to him. I would get along with him."
But Trump also said in October he would like to "sit back" and watch as Russia continues air strikes in Syria, suggesting it could be a "trap" that could bog down Moscow.