Trump on Putin: He's strong and powerful

Republican frontrunner returns the favor after Russian president lavishes praise on him.

Ben Ariel,

Donald Trump
Donald Trump

After Russian President Vladimir Putin lavished praise on Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump, the billionaire returned the favor, praising Russia's leader as forceful and popular.

"I think that he's a strong leader, he's a powerful leader," Trump told MSNBC television on Friday, in comments quoted by the AFP news agency. "He's represented his country."

"When people call you brilliant it's always good, especially when the person heads up Russia," Trump added.

He was speaking a day after Putin described the American billionaire as "talented" and "outstanding" in a press conference.

Trump brushed off the assertion by the show's co-host Joe Scarborough that Putin "kills journalists and political opponents and invades countries."

"He's running his country and at least he's a leader, unlike, you know, what we have in this country," he responded, according to AFP.

"I think our country does plenty of killing, also, Joe," Trump added. "There's a lot of stupidity going on in the world right now, Joe. A lot of killing going on."

Only when asked, for a third time, whether he condemned the killing of journalists and political opponents, did Trump change tack, and said, "Oh sure, absolutely."

Putin’s view of Trump is not shared by everyone, however, as the Republican frontrunner recently caused an uproar both at home and abroad when he called for a ban on Muslims entering the country in the wake of the massacre in San Bernardino.

The comments were widely condemned, with White House press secretary Josh Earnest saying the proposal was "disqualifying", and Secretary of State John Kerry claiming this week the comments “endanger national security”.

Meanwhile, noted AFP, Trump’s rivals in the primary race for 2016 have sought to use Putin's endorsement against the billionaire.

"To get praise from Vladimir Putin is not going to help Donald Trump," former Florida Governor Jeb Bush told CNN.

Bush and Trump butted heads at the Republican presidential debate this past week, with Bush calling the billionaire “unhinged” over his proposal to temporarily ban Muslims from entering the country.

Trump fired back by saying, “Jeb doesn’t really believe I’m unhinged", adding Bush was on attack because his campaign has "failed."