Russian President Vladimir Putin has called billionaire Donald Trump the leader in the U.S. presidential race and said he welcomes the business mogul's calls for deeper U.S.-Russian relations.
“He is a person who stands out -- talented, without any doubt," said Putin. “He remains the absolute front-runner in the presidential race."
Putin, speaking from the Kremlin on December 17 during his annual marathon press conference, praised Trump for pledging to improve relations with Moscow.
"[Trump] says he wants to move to a different, tighter level of relations," Putin said. "How can we not welcome that? Of course we welcome it."
Trump has said while campaigning for the Republican nomination for president in recent months that he would have "no problem" making agreements with Putin, who he said he got to know "very well" when they were each featured -- separately and on different continents -- on the American news program 60 Minutes. The two men have apparently never met.
Trump said in September that if he were to be elected president he would "talk to [Putin]. I would get along with him."
Based on reporting by Interfax and buzzfeed.com