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17 June 2016

Vladimir Putin again praises Donald Trump, calls him 'bright' person

Russian President Vladimir Putin stood by his previous praise of presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump Friday, calling the billionaire businessman a "bright" person.

Although Putin said he would work with any of the presidential candidates, he lauded the GOP White House hopeful's comments on improving relations between the United States and Russia while speaking at an economic forum in St. Petersburg, the Associated Press reported.

The Russian president, meanwhile, would not comment directly on presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, but praised her husband, former President Bill Clinton.

Putin's remarks came just days after Russian government hackers were accused of penetrating a Democratic National Committee database and stealing opposition research on Trump -- a report which Russia has denied, according to the Washington Post.

The Russian president told reporters in mid-December that he sees Trump as "an absolute leader of the presidential race" and would welcome his calls to enhance relations with Russia.

"He is a very flamboyant man, very talented, no doubt about that...," Putin said. "He is an absolute leader of the presidential race, as we see it today. He says that he wants to move to another level of relations, to a deeper level of relations with Russia. How can we not welcome that? Of course we welcome it."

Putin's initial praise of Trump sparked pushback from other Republican presidential hopefuls, including U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., who argued that the businessman shouldn't be honored to receive the Russian president's praise.